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Title: The Public Life of Queen Victoria
Author: John McGilchrist
Release Date: May 3, 2012 [eBook #39603]
Character set encoding: UTF-8
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE PUBLIC LIFE OF QUEEN VICTORIA***
|Note:||Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive/American Libraries. See http://archive.org/details/publiclifeofquee00mcgi|
FELT AND DILLINGHAM,
455, BROOME STREET, NEW YORK.
|Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, the Protector of Luther—Staunch Protestantism of the Queen’s Saxon Forefathers—House of Saxe-Coburg—A Saxon Desperado of the Middle Ages—A Fighting Hero of the Eighteenth Century—The Queen’s Grandmother a Woman of Extraordinary Excellence—Great Alliances in the Marriages of her Uncles and Aunts||1|
|THE GREATEST OF THE MODERN COBURGS.|
|Romantic Career of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the Queen’s Uncle—His Continuous, Kind, and Fatherly Care of his Orphaned Niece—The Duchy of Coburg held by Napoleon—Sufferings of the Ducal Family—A Temptation resisted—The Tide turned—Leopold’s Popularity in England—Betrothal and Marriage to the Princess Charlotte of Wales||8|
|PARENTAGE AND BIRTH OF QUEEN VICTORIA.|
|How the Princess Victoria came to be Heiress Presumptive to the Throne—Death of the Princess Charlotte—Marriages of the Royal Dukes—Of the Duke of Kent—Birth of the Princess Alexandrina Victoria—Prediction of George IV.—Death of the Duke of Kent—His Character—His Liberal Opinions—Public Condolence with the Widow and Orphan—Early Life of the Duchess of Kent||14|
|FIRST YEARS OF CHILDHOOD.|
|Old Memories of Kensington Palace—Enlargements of the Structure by William III., Anne, Queen Caroline, and the Duke of Sussex—Maids of Honour—Rank and Beauty in the Gardens—Wilberforce and the Infant Princess—Victoria at Ramsgate—A Picture of Victoria when Five Years Old—Her Physical Training—Popularity as a Child—Her Youthful Charities—A Narrow Escape from Death—Early Development of Quick Intelligence—Anecdotes—Love of Nature—Proneness to Self-Will—But Counterbalanced by Candour—Waggishness—A Portrait of the Child-Princess by Leigh Hunt||23|
|EDUCATION OF THE PRINCESS VICTORIA.|
|Additional Grant by Parliament for the Maintenance and Education of the Princess—Wise Lessons learned at her Mother’s Knee—A Visit to George IV. at Windsor—Assiduous Pursuit of Knowledge—Accession of William IV.—Victoria becomes next in Succession to the Crown—Regency Bill—Satisfaction of the Good Grandmother at Coburg—Her Death—Joy of Victoria at the Elevation of her Uncle to the Belgian Throne—Parliamentary Inquiry into the Progress of her Education—Satisfactory Report in Response—Presented at Court—Great Ball on her Twelfth Birthday at St. James’s Palace—Court Scandal and Baseless Rumours—The Duchess of Northumberland appointed Governess—The Princess and the Poet Southey||37|
|THE PRINCESS IN HER TEENS.|
|Visits paid to many parts of England—Love of Cathedrals and Church Music—Trip to North Wales and the Midland Counties—Visit to a Cotton Mill—To Oxford—Gala Day at Southampton—Interview with the Young Queen of Portugal—Confirmation of the Princess—Tour to the North—York Musical Festival—At Ramsgate with the King of the Belgians—A Noble Deed at Tunbridge Wells||47|
|EARLY DAYS OF PRINCE ALBERT.|
|Birth—Melancholy Story of his Mother—Brought up under the Care of his Two Excellent Grandmothers—His Winning Ways as a Child—His Tutor, Florschütz—The Brothers, Ernest and Albert—Visit to Brussels, and its Beneficial Effects—Hard Study—Tour through Germany, &c.—First Visit to England, and Meeting with Victoria—Studies at Brussels—Enters the University of Bonn—Tour to Switzerland and Italy—Public Announcement of Betrothal—Leaves Coburg and Gotha for his Marriage||52|
|THE PRINCESS VICTORIA BECOMES QUEEN REGNANT.|
|First Meeting of the Princess Victoria and Prince Albert—Coming of Age—Festivities on the Occasion—Death of William IV., and Accession of Victoria—The Queen holds her First Privy Council—Her Address—Proclamation as Queen at St. James’s Palace—Beautiful Traits of Character displayed by the Queen—Stirring and Gorgeous Scene—Delight of the People at the Queen’s Accession||61|
|THE MAIDEN QUEEN.|
|Removal to Buckingham Palace—First Levée—Dissolves Parliament—Beauty of her Elocution—Splendid Reception by the City of London—Settlement of the Queen’s Income—Her Daily Life—Her Admirable Knowledge of, and Devotion to, the Business of the State—Reverence for the Lord’s Day||69|
|THE QUEEN CROWNED.|
|Novel Features in the Coronation—Its Cost—Large Amount of Money Circulated—Splendour of the Procession—Enormous Crowds—The Scene within the Abbey—Arrival of the Queen—The Regalia and Sacred Vessels—Costume of the Queen—Astonishment of the Turkish Ambassador at the Scene—The Coronation Ceremony—The Queen’s Oath—The Anointing—The Crown placed on her Head—The Homage—An Aged Peer—The Queen’s Crown—The Illuminations and General Festivities—Fair in Hyde Park—The Duke of Wellington and Marshal Soult at the Guildhall||75|
|THE BEDCHAMBER PLOT.|
|Resignation of Lord Melbourne’s Cabinet—Sir Robert Peel sent for—Fails to form a Cabinet—His Explanation—The Queen refuses to Dismiss her Ladies of the Bedchamber—Supported by her late Ministers—Sir Robert Peel’s Objections—The Queen will not give way—The Whigs recalled to Power—Public Opinion on the Dispute—The Whig Ministers blamed, and the Queen exculpated||84|
|COURTSHIP AND BETROTHAL.|
|Desire of the Coburg Relatives for a Marriage between Victoria and Albert—Favourable Impressions mutually made by Victoria and Albert—Prince Albert’s Letter on the Queen’s Accession—Opposition of King William IV. to the Marriage—Correspondence between the Cousins—King Leopold Urges on the Marriage—The Queen’s Reluctance to become Betrothed—Her subsequent Regret at this—The Prince craves a definite Determination—His Second Visit to England—Betrothed at Last—Returns to Germany to say Farewell||91|
|THE QUEEN WEDDED.|
|Announcement of the Intended Marriage to the Privy Council and Parliament—Parliamentary Settlement of the Prince’s Rank, &c.—Annoying Circumstances—The Prince’s Protestantism—His Income—Arrival of the Bridegroom—Receives a National Welcome—The Wedding—Honeymoon Spent at Windsor||100|
|EARLY YEARS OF MARRIED LIFE.|
|Difficulties and Delicacy of Prince Albert’s Position—Early Married Life—Studies continued—Attempts on the Queen’s Life—Courage of the Queen—Birth of the Princess Royal—Parting from the Whig Ladies of the Bedchamber—Dark Days for England—Birth of the Prince of Wales—The Queen Described by M. Guizot—A Dinner at Buckingham Palace—State Dinner at Windsor||110|
|THE QUEEN IN SCOTLAND.|
|Christening of the Prince of Wales—Manufacturing Distress—The Queen’s Efforts to alleviate it—Assesses Herself to the Income Tax—Resolves to Visit Scotland—Embarks at Woolwich—Beacon Fires in the Firth of Forth—Landing on Scottish Soil—A Disappointment—Formal Entry into Edinburgh—Richness of Historical and Ancestral Associations—The Queen on the Castle Rock—A Highland Welcome—Departure from Scotland||126|
|WHAT ENGLAND OWES TO PRINCE ALBERT.|
|The Prince’s Study of our Laws and Constitution—Two Misconceptions Outlived—His Versatility—His First Speech an Anti-Slavery one—His Appreciation and Judicious Criticism of Art—Scientific Side of his Mind—As an Agriculturist||141|
|FOREIGN TRAVEL AND HOME VISITS.|
|Visit to King Louis Philippe at Eu—A Loyal Corporation—Splendid Reception of the Queen in France—Anecdote of the Queen’s Regard for Prince Albert—Visit of the Czar Nicholas—Home Life in Scotland—Visit to Germany—Illuminations of the Rhine—A Rural Fête at Coburg||149|
|THE QUEEN IN IRELAND.|
|First Visit to Ireland—Rapturous Reception at Cork—Queenstown so denominated—Enthusiasm at Dublin—Its Graceful Recognition by the Queen—Visit to the Dublin Exhibition—Encouragement of Native Industry—Visit to the Lakes of Killarney—The Whirligig of Time||157|
|THE WORLD’S CONGRESS OF INDUSTRY.|
|Prince Albert the Inaugurator of International Exhibitions—Proposes, Unsuccessfully, his Scheme to the Government—To the Society of Arts, Successfully—First Steps towards Realisation—Objections to be Met—Perseverance of the Prince—The Royal Commission—The Prince’s Speech at York—The Opening Ceremony—The Royal Procession||164|
|THE WAR CLOUD.|
|Bright Hopes of Peace Dispelled—An Era of War all over the World—The Russian War—The Queen’s Visits to the Wounded Soldiers—Presentation of the War Medals—Crimean Heroes—The Volunteer Movement||172|
|THE QUEEN IN HER HIGHLAND HOME.|
|The Queen as an Author—“The Early Years of the Prince Consort”—“Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands”—Love for Children of all Ranks—Mountain Ascents on Pony-back—In Fingal’s Cave—“The Queen’s Luck”—Salmon-spearing, and a Catastrophe attending it—Erection of a Memorial Cairn—Freedom of Intercourse with Humble Highlanders—Visits to Cottagers—“Mrs. Albert”—Travelling Incognito—Highland Dinners—“A Wedding-Party frae Aberdeen”—A Disguise Detected||186|
|THE WIDOWED QUEEN.|
|Unbroken Happiness of the Queen’s Life up to 1861—Death of the Duchess of Kent—The Prince Consort slightly Ailing—Catches Cold at Cambridge and Eton—The Malady becomes Serious—Public Alarm—Rapid Sinking, and Death—Sorrow of the People—The Queen’s Fortitude—Avoidance of Court Display—Good Deeds—Sympathy with all Benevolent Actions—Letter of Condolence to the Widow of President Lincoln—The “Albert Medal”—Conclusion||194|
LIFE OF QUEEN VICTORIA.
Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, the Protector of Luther—Staunch Protestantism of the Queen’s Saxon Forefathers—House of Saxe-Coburg—A Saxon Desperado of the Middle Ages—A Fighting Hero of the Eighteenth Century—The Queen’s Grandmother a Woman of Extraordinary Excellence—Great Alliances in the Marriages of her Uncles and Aunts.
Queen Victoria is, through her mother, descended—and her children are descended by the double line of both their parents—from the great, good, and glorious Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony early in the sixteenth century, who was one of the first to embrace the principles of Luther’s Reformation, and whose name still stands out so nobly and brightly as the staunch and courageous protector of the great Reformer. The Ernestine branch of this great Saxon house, from which the Queen and the Prince Consort both derived their descent, have ever, though at great cost and injury to themselves at many periods of their history, remained true to the principles thus early adopted by their common ancestor; and they have ever considered it as the brightest glory of their race, that they can[Pg 2] proudly point to this unquestionable fact. When one of the most distinguished members—if, indeed, he was not the most illustrious scion—of this family, the Queen’s maternal uncle, Leopold, King of the Belgians, made a journey into Scotland, to allay the pangs of the bereavement which he had suffered in the untimely death of his young wife, the Princess Charlotte, he paid a visit of a few days’ duration to Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford. While there, an aged and reverend Scottish divine was presented to the Prince. The clergyman, in the course of the interview, made complimentary reference to this fact in the descent of the Prince. Prince Leopold, in reply, stated that this was the first notice which had been taken of the circumstance in his presence since the day of his first arrival in England, and that he felt more honoured by it than by any other tribute which had been paid to him and his family.
The curious in such matters, those for whom the minute particularity of authenticated genealogical detail possesses a charm, with which the compiler of these pages acknowledges that he is himself affected, but which it would be unfair to such of his readers as do not share this taste to minister to at excessive length—such we refer to the Reverend Edward Tauerschmidt’s “Brief Historical Account of the Dukedom and Ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.” There they will find the full pedigree, with no link wanting, which connects Her Majesty, and equally her first cousin and spouse, by the links of twenty-five generations, with the Saxon Earl Theodoric, or Dideric, of the House of Bucizi, who is recorded to have died in the year of our Lord 982. We content ourselves with proceeding at a leap to the reign[Pg 3] of Frederick the Benignant, Elector of Saxony, who was thirteenth in descent from Earl Theodoric, and died in 1464. In a most fascinating article which was contributed by Mr. Carlyle to the January number of the Westminster Review for the year 1855, entitled, “A Glimpse of Saxon History,” a most romantic incident of this Elector’s reign is narrated with the writer’s customary graphic power. This potentate had a “fighting captain” in his employ, by name Kunz von Kaufungen. Fighting for his master, he was captured, and being a warrior of importance, was amerced in the heavy ransom of a sum equal to 2,000 English pounds. This he paid, but expected to be indemnified by Frederick. This expectation, for some reason, was not fulfilled. Kunz, exasperated, swore to be avenged. On the 7th of July, 1455, Kunz entered the town of Altenburg, at the head of a party of thirty men. Having bribed one of the servants to treachery, they obtained admission into the Electoral castle, from which they carried off Frederick’s two sons, the Princes Ernest and Albert. The Electress soon discovered her loss, and the desperadoes had not proceeded far on their several ways (they had divided into two bands, each having one of the children), ere they were hotly pursued. Kunz himself headed that moiety of his force who bore with them Ernest, the elder boy and the more valuable hostage. The pursuers caused alarms to be rung from the village spires, and amongst others of the peasantry who were aroused, was a rough charcoal-burner, who, encountering the party of Kunz, “belaboured him with the poking-pole” which he used in his vocation, and to such effect that he vanquished the abductor, rescued the boy, and had the happiness of[Pg 4] restoring him to the arms of his agonised mother. When asked, wonderingly and admiringly, how he dared to attack so formidable a foe, he replied to his fair and grateful querist, “Madam, I drilled him soundly with my poking-pole.” From that day he was known by no other name than the Driller—der Triller. Kunz was consigned to the block, while the Driller, and deliverer, was offered any reward he chose to name. This true man—a mediæval “Miller of the Dee”—asked no other recompense than “only liberty to cut, of scrags and waste wood, what will suffice for my charring purposes.” This was at once granted, along with the freehold of a snug farm, and an annual and ample allowance of corn from the barns of the Electors. All was secured to him and his posterity by formal deed, and his descendants to this day enjoy the privileges so valiantly earned by their ancestor four centuries ago. From the two princes so rescued, descended respectively the Ernestine and the Albertine branches of the Saxon house. The Queen is—as her husband was—twelfth in descent from the little Prince Ernest, who became the progenitor of the former line.
The parent stock had boasted among other meritorious or distinguished representatives the names of Conrad the Great, Otho the Rich, Henry the Illustrious, three Fredericks, dubbed respectively the Serious, the Warlike, and the Benignant; whilst, as disparaging sets-off, either demerit or misfortune was indicated, in the instance of other Electors, by these sobriquets—the Oppressed, the Degenerate, the Severe, and, strangest of all, Frederick-with-the-Wounded-Cheek. This habit of designating the successive Electors by their moral or other peculiarities,[Pg 5] or by the incidents or accidents of their careers, was continued but for a few generations of the Ernestine branch of the bifurcated line. It contained a Magnanimous Frederick, and a Fiery Ernest, after whose death, in 1675, this pleasing plan of picturesque designation no longer meets the eye of the student.
The chivalrous protection which Frederick the Magnanimous—or the Wise, as he is sometimes also denominated—spread as a buckler over Luther and the Lutherans cost him his birthright. The bigoted Charles V. diverted, in 1547, the Electoral dignity from the Ernestine to the Albertine branch, and the fortunes of the house cannot be said to have been fully restored until the Treaty of Tilsit, in 1807, ratified as its main provisions were by that of Vienna, seven years later.
Coming down to more recent times, and to the Queen’s more immediate ancestry, we find the old spirit which these brave Saxon princes represented in the stirring mediæval and Reforming days, abundantly maintained in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and notably so on the field of battle, in the great wars with which the names of Frederick the Great, Maria Theresa, Suwarow, and Napoleon are associated. Francis Josias was twenty-second of the line, and the Queen’s great-great-grandfather. His great-grandson, the late King Leopold, says of him, that he was “much looked up to.” He was a tall and powerful man, but disfigured by having lost an eye at tennis, a game then very popular on the Continent. One of his grandsons, a Prince Frederick Josias, served with distinction in the Seven Years’ War, in one of the battles of which he was shot through the hand. He was subsequently employed in high positions by the Empress[Pg 6] Maria Theresa, and made a great name for himself against the Turks. Suwarow and he extricated the Emperor Joseph, the son of the Empress, from utter failure, and conquered the Principalities. He afterwards fought against Dumouriez in the Netherlands, and gained the battle of Neerwinden, in 1793, near Tirlemont; “one of the greatest battles of modern history,” says his nephew, King Leopold, a most competent authority on the subject. He says that, but for the inaction of the Dutch contingent, and the insane attempt of the Duke of York to conquer Dunkirk, the allies, after this victory, which cleared the Netherlands of the French, might as easily have marched upon Paris as the forces of Wellington and Blucher did after Waterloo.
The Queen’s grandfather, suffering early in life from exceedingly bad health, was cast in a much less energetic mould, but his character was eminently benevolent and loveable, and he had a knowledge and love of the fine arts, which Prince Albert, in the highest degree of all his descendants, inherited. The Queen’s grandmother, who was of the Reuss-Ebersdorff family, was equally warm-hearted, possessed a powerful mind, and “loved her grandchildren most tenderly.” We shall have much to say of her in subsequent pages.
Of the Queen’s aunts, one, after declining many eligible offers in her own princely rank, married Count Mensdorff-Pouilly, a French emigrant of the Revolution, who entered the Austrian service, and became the father of the well-known Austrian statesman, Count Arthur Mensdorff, who was the bosom friend of Prince Albert from his earliest infancy until his untimely death. A second married the reigning Duke of Wurtemburg, and occupied[Pg 7] for many years a very influential position in Russia, her husband being brother of the Empress Catherine (the second of that name), and maternal uncle of the Emperors Alexander and Nicholas. The third daughter of the house herself became a Russian Grand Duchess; she was wedded at the age of fifteen to the Grand Duke Constantine. The marriage was an inharmonious one, and in 1802 the young pair agreed to separate. Both husband and wife were acquitted of all blame; Leopold, the brother of the latter, attributes the sad event to “the shocking hypocrisy of the Empress-mother,” in the absence of which “things might have gone on.” The Queen’s mother, who was christened Victoire (or Victoria) Marie Louise, was the youngest of the four sisters. Besides Duke Ernest, the father of Prince Albert, the Queen had two other maternal uncles. One was Frederick George, who married a great heiress, the Hungarian Princess of Kohary. His son became the consort of Donna Maria II. of Portugal; his grandson, the present King of Portugal, is the Queen’s first cousin once removed, and the second cousin of her children. Her other uncle was the late King of the Belgians, whose career is a portion of the history of our grandfathers’, our fathers’, and our own times, and is so intimately associated with the life and fortunes of Her Majesty as to merit separate treatment in a succeeding chapter, and elsewhere incidentally in the course of our narrative.
THE GREATEST OF THE MODERN COBURGS.
Romantic Career of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the Queen’s Uncle—his Continuous, Kind, and Fatherly Care of his Orphaned Niece—The Duchy of Coburg held by Napoleon—Sufferings of the Ducal Family—A Temptation resisted—The Tide turned—Leopold’s Popularity in England—Betrothal and Marriage to the Princess Charlotte of Wales.
Born in the year 1790, Prince Leopold was a soldier and in the saddle when he was fifteen years of age. In 1805, that war broke out between Napoleon and Austria, in which the power of the Kaiser was so near being destroyed. The health of the Duke Francis, Leopold’s father, was fast failing him, and the tremendous sorrows and sufferings inflicted by the victorious French upon Germany, hastened the rapidity of his descent to the grave. Ernest, the eldest son, and Leopold hurriedly left Coburg to join the Russian army in Moravia. Their only other brother was already in an Austrian regiment of Hussars. Ere Leopold could flesh his sword, Austerlitz had been fought and lost, and Austria was thoroughly crippled. He returned to Coburg to witness his father’s death. The French were in possession of the town and Duchy, and when they learned that the new Duke was with their Prussian foe, they appointed a military intendant, a M. Vilain—in nature as well as in name, so Leopold afterwards recorded. The Ducal family were reduced to such[Pg 9] straits, that they depended for their very sustenance upon the clandestine benefactions of the Governmental subordinates, surlily winked at by their French masters. The Duchess set off on a journey to Warsaw to endeavour to propitiate Napoleon; but she was permitted to proceed no farther than Berlin, as Napoleon hated such visits. She returned baffled to Coburg, which remained “une possession Française.” The Peace of Tilsit, among its other provisions, “reintegrated” Coburg; but, through the greed and treachery of Prussia, the stipulated arrangements were never fulfilled. On the ratification of the Peace, Duke Ernest came to Coburg for the first time to assume his Ducal power and dignity.
As a matter of policy, Leopold, with other German Princes, now visited Napoleon at Paris, where he was courteously received. On his return from Paris, early in 1808, he nearly died of scarlet fever. After a very tardy and painful recovery, he went, at the end of the year, to the Congress of Erfurth, to which he had been summoned by the Czar Alexander. He tried there to secure to his brother his undiminished territorial possessions, and succeeded in making such a favourable impression upon Napoleon that he would have done so, but for the impolitic excessiveness of his brother’s claims, and the apathetic manner in which the Czar supported them. The war with Russia came on, in which he eagerly desired to serve against the French; but Napoleon caused it to be known that if he did so his brother would be held responsible; so he had to abide in inglorious and detested ease. Napoleon made him tempting offers to enter his service, and would have been more incensed at his persistent refusal than he was, but[Pg 10] for the friendly intercession of Josephine and Queen Hortense, her daughter, who were both very friendly to the young Prince.
Meanwhile he turned his eminent talents for diplomacy to good account. He persuaded Bavaria to return to his brother portions of Coburg territory which that state unjustly held, and removed the galling pain of the Bavarian flag floating over villages within four English miles of the town of Coburg itself.
In 1812 Napoleon’s frightful war with Russia broke out. Napoleon summoned the subject and enfeebled German Princes to Dresden. Duke Ernest was compelled to go, and Leopold also was cited to the gathering, but he went to Vienna, and then to Italy, to keep out of the way. It would have been now most dangerous to decline the French service, and he was determined at all costs not to enter it. “Germany,” said he, “was, at the beginning of 1812, in the lowest and most humiliating position; Austria and Prussia sunk to be auxiliaries; everybody frightened and submissive, except Spain, supported by England.” But Napoleon’s reverses in Russia soon followed, and they electrified all Germany into new courage. The Duke of Coburg posted off to Berlin to endeavour to stimulate the perplexed, vacillating, and timorous Prussian King into manly and decided action. The other brother, Ferdinand, went to Vienna on a similar errand. Leopold hied him to Munich to stir up the Crown Prince of Bavaria, afterwards King Louis. They were all moderately successful, and Leopold hastened to Kalisch, in Poland, being the first German Prince to join the Army of Liberation. He was equally honoured and gratified by being appointed a [Pg 11]Major-General by the Czar. He was present at the hard-fought but indecisive battles of Lutzen and Bautzen. There followed an armistice, and a conference at Prague, with a view to a definite settlement. This the Prince attended. He was the only person admitted to the presence of the Emperor of Austria, and spent much of his time with the plenipotentiaries Metternich, Humboldt, Ansted, Gentz, and others. The negotiations broke off, and hostilities were resumed. At the decided defeat which the French general Vandamme sustained, shortly before the crowning victory of Leipsic, Leopold commanded all the allied cavalry, and distinguished himself the more that he was the only general in the field who knew the country. He was present, and in high command, at Leipsic, where Germany was finally freed. After the fight, the Grand Duke Constantine accompanied him to Coburg, visiting the relatives of the wife from whom he was now separated, and who lived and died in retirement in Switzerland. Amongst others they visited the future Duchess of Kent, then Princess of Leiningen, her first husband being still alive. Shortly afterwards Constantine and Leopold rejoined the army in Switzerland, where Leopold tried hard, but ineffectually, to effect a reconciliation between his sister and her husband. Leopold subsequently entered Paris at the head of the cavalry; his eldest brother procured the evacuation of Mayence by its French garrison. The three brothers all met in Paris, from which Leopold proceeded, in the suite of the Czar, to the great triumphant gathering of the Allied Sovereigns in London. Now for the first time he met his future bride, the Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, and heir to[Pg 12] the throne. His splendid continental career already propitiated her, as it did all the British people, in his favour. The project of a matrimonial union between the gallant young general and the still more youthful princess was warmly taken up by the leading men in power, including Wellington, his brothers, and Castlereagh. The Prince Regent alone was opposed to the project. He was irritated by his daughter’s repugnance to the Prince of Orange, who was destined by him to be his son-in-law, and by her recent flight from Carlton House to the residence of her mother. Leopold, however, decidedly succeeded in winning the affections of the lady herself, and the nation was delighted at the project. The Dukes of York and Kent, too, warmly encouraged his suit. On his return home he found that his youngest sister had been unexpectedly left a widow, and he arranged the guardianship and pecuniary affairs of the future mother of England’s Queen. At the Congress of Vienna, whither he went to plead the cause of his brother, his amazing sagacity and tact induced the negotiators to make a very satisfactory arrangement of frontier. This he settled, to the great chagrin of Humboldt, the Prussian envoy, who, with the Prussian Court and people generally, seems to have been extremely spiteful towards the little principality, their near neighbour.
Leopold was not at Waterloo—fought so near the capital of his future kingdom. He was posted in Alsace in command of an army of observation, which, of course, was never needed for action. Leopold went alone to Paris, with the leave of the Czar, still animated by the purpose of advancing his brother’s pretensions; Prussia having failed to carry out the rectifications of frontier[Pg 13] enacted at Vienna the year before. He succeeded in this object, and hopes of the highest nature were engendered about an affair still nearer to his heart. Wellington and Castlereagh treated him with marked and significant deference. And through the kind intervention of the good-hearted and simple-minded Duke of Kent, he received from his ladye-love some pleasant tokens of continued affection and renewed pledges of staunch fidelity. He was strongly recommended to repair to England and renew and prosecute his wooing in person; but he very astutely declined, thinking it unwise to “brave” the Prince Regent. He went, instead, to Vienna, to act as groomsman at the wedding of his brother Ferdinand with the great Hungarian heiress whose love he had won; and from thence to Berlin, persistently to enforce his brother’s twice recognised and sanctioned rights. At Berlin he received a welcome invitation to England from the Regent, and a most satisfactory letter of “explanation” from Lord Castlereagh. He arrived in London in February, 1816. Castlereagh at once took him to Brighton, where the Regent was. He received his daughter’s wooer most graciously. The old queen and her three daughters posted after Leopold from London, and in a family council the marriage was definitely agreed on. The young couple were married in May, amid the joyful acclamations of the whole nation.
PARENTAGE AND BIRTH OF QUEEN VICTORIA.
How the Princess Victoria came to be Heiress Presumptive to the Throne—Death of the Princess Charlotte—Marriages of the Royal Dukes—Of the Duke of Kent—Birth of the Princess Alexandrina Victoria—Prediction of George IV.—Death of the Duke of Kent—His Character—His Liberal Opinions—Public Condolence with the Widow and Orphan—Early Life of the Duchess of Kent.
On the 6th of November, 1817, the hopes of the nation, which had so fondly rested upon the happy union between the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, were fatally blasted by Her Royal Highness’s death, shortly after her delivery of a still-born child. Never in our history was a blow felt more deeply and personally by all the nation, than this bereavement. The death of the Princess Charlotte severely and most painfully disappointed the nation in its general expectation with regard to the much desired succession to the throne in the person of herself and her heirs. The Duke of Cumberland, who was hated by all, was the only married younger son of the king, and there was a general desire that the other royal princes, especially the popular and estimable Dukes of Kent and Sussex, should seek out suitable partners. The Duke of Kent rightly felt that the House of Brunswick was dear to the English people, that the nation had a very strong desire that the question of succession should be placed beyond doubt,[Pg 15] and that, considering the uncertainty of the chances of life, and of leaving offspring, it was clearly his duty to marry. Indeed, he had already, ere the untimely death of his niece, offered his hand and heart to the widowed Princess of Leiningen. The Princess Charlotte tenderly loved her uncle Kent, who had done so much to promote the attainment of the wishes of her own heart, and she did all she could to promote the marriage of her uncle with the sister of her husband. But the position of the Princess of Leiningen as guardian of her two children occasioned delays; and no unimportant matter was the fact that if she re-married, she would sacrifice a jointure of nearly £5,000 a year, while the Duke of Kent was punished by the Court for his free and outspoken Liberal opinions by being restricted to a very meagre pecuniary allowance from the Tory Parliament. At last, however, all minor difficulties were smoothed over. On the 13th of May, a message was brought down to Parliament, announcing that “the Prince Regent had given his consent to a marriage between the Duke of Kent and Her Serene Highness Mary Louisa Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, widow of Enrich Charles, Prince of Leiningen, and sister of Prince Leopold.” Of all the royal marriages, this was the one which the heart of the country went most thoroughly along with. The Duke of Kent never disguised—indeed, he openly proclaimed—his attachment to the principles of the popular party; and the fact of the close relationship of his intended wife to Prince Leopold was another strong recommendation. The marriage was celebrated, first according to the Lutheran rites in Germany, on the 29th May, 1818, and, on the 13th of[Pg 16] July following, by the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Prince Regent, on the latter occasion, giving away the bride. In the same summer, the Dukes of Clarence and Cambridge had married. The Duke of Sussex, whose affections and sympathies were otherwise engaged, declined to contract a foreign alliance; but he took the liveliest interest in the marriage of his favourite brother Kent, as he also did in the future welfare and prosperity of his niece.
After the English marriage, the young couple sojourned for a brief period at Claremont, the residence which had been selected by the Princess Charlotte, and which Prince Leopold continued to occupy. They then, guided chiefly by motives of economy, for their means were very small, travelled on the Continent, from which they returned for the accouchement of the Duchess. Both prospective parents were desirous that their child should be “born a Briton.” They arrived at Dover on the 23rd of April, 1819, and on the 24th of May the Princess Alexandrina Victoria was born at Kensington Palace. She was born in the presence of the Dukes of Sussex and Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Earl Bathurst, Mr. Canning, Mr. Vansittart, and the Bishop of London. The Duke of Kent wept for joy, and the fact that his infant was a daughter did not in the least degree diminish his delight. The Duchess rapidly recovered, and the beauty and symmetry of the infant Princess were spoken of with admiration by all who had an opportunity of observing her. Shortly after this happy event, the Duke of Kent attended a drawing-room, from which, and similar Court ceremonies, the estrangement between himself and the[Pg 17] Regent had for some time kept him away. His brother was most affable, and invited him to dine the next day, when he predicted that his little niece would be Queen some time. This certainly seemed improbable shortly afterwards, for Clarence, who was nearer in succession than Kent, became the father of two daughters by his wife, Adelaide. But they both died young, thereby opening the succession to the child of the Duke of Kent, and verifying the Regent’s prophecy. The child was christened with great privacy, on the 24th of June, in the Palace of Kensington. The royal gold font was fetched from the Tower, and fitted up in the grand saloon of the palace. Under the direction of the Lord Chamberlain, the draperies were removed from the Chapel Royal, St. James’s. The Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Bishop of London, administered the holy office; the Prince Regent, the members of the Royal Family, and other illustrious visitors were present. The sponsors were the Prince Regent, the Czar Alexander (represented by the Duke of York as proxy), the Queen Dowager of Wurtemberg (represented by the Princess Augusta), and the Duchess Dowager of Coburg (represented by the Duchess of Gloucester). A brilliant evening party filled the saloons of the happy parents.
The Duke and Duchess still made Claremont their chief home. But the winter of 1819-20 set in with unusual severity, and they went to Sidmouth, in the hope of escaping its trying severity. From Sidmouth the Duke made an excursion to visit Salisbury Cathedral, where he caught a slight cold. On his return to Sidmouth it became alarming, and the Duchess sent off in haste to her brother, who was visiting at Lord Craven’s.[Pg 18] Soon after his arrival, the Duke breathed his last. While his cold still slightly affected him, he had gone for a long walk, on the 13th of January, with Captain Conroy, and had his boots soaked through with wet. He neglected to change his boots and stockings until he dressed for dinner, being attracted by the smiles of his infant princess, with whom he sat for some time playing. Before night he had a sensation of cold and hoarseness, but the doctors were not alarmed, and merely prescribed mild medicaments and a good night’s rest. But the symptoms of fever rapidly increased, and, in spite of much blood-letting, he died ten days from the date of the recurrence of his cold. He met his death with pious resignation. The Duchess was most indefatigable in her attentions, and personally performed all the offices of the sick-bed. For five successive nights she never took off her clothes, and she struggled to prevent his seeing the agony of her apprehensions, never leaving the bed-side but to give vent to her bursting sorrow. The presence of her brother was a great comfort to her, both before and after the moment of death. It was fortunate, indeed, that Leopold was in this country, “as the poor Duke had left his family deprived of all means of existence.” So did Leopold himself testify many years afterwards.
The Duke of Kent, although unpopular in his youth on account of his strictness as a military disciplinarian, became in later days much beloved. His stature was tall, and his appearance noble and manly. His manner was engaging, and his conversation animated. He possessed an exact memory, varied information, a quick and masculine intellect. In many of his tastes and habits he closely resembled his father. He was an early riser,[Pg 19] and a close economist of time; temperate in eating; though fond of society, indifferent to wine; a kind master, punctual correspondent, and exact man of business; a steady friend, and an affectionate brother. He was peculiarly exempt in his youth from those extravagances and vices with which the names of some of his brothers were so painfully associated. He was in his early life, which he spent in active and laborious military service, a pattern of prudence, economy, and industrious habits. He incurred no unnecessary expenses, and made few debts, although his annual allowance was only £1,000 for some years after he had attained his majority. He delighted in books, education, charity, and the promotion of all useful arts, and was a model son, husband, and father. He was a staunch and uncompromising advocate of those liberal opinions which it is so well known that his daughter inherits, which she displayed so unreservedly early in her reign, but the prominent expression of which prudence and constitutional restraints convinced her that it was advisable to keep in the background, as her mind grew and ripened. The Duke of Kent’s political views will be gathered from the following extract from a speech at a banquet, in which he replied to the toast of the junior members of the Royal Family:—“I am a friend of civil and religious liberty, all the world over. I am an enemy to all religious tests. I am a supporter of a general system of education. All men are my brethren; and I hold that power is only delegated for the benefit of the people. These are the principles of myself and of my beloved brother, the Duke of Sussex. They are not popular principles just now; that is, they do not conduct to place or office. All the[Pg 20] members of the Royal Family do not hold the same principles. For this I do not blame them; but we claim for ourselves the right of thinking and acting as we think best, and we proclaim ourselves, with our friend Mr. Tierney, ‘members of His Majesty’s loyal Opposition.’” These words give a precise and definite idea of the character of this clear-headed, good-hearted, shrewd, practical, and unpretending man.
Prince Leopold accompanied his widowed sister and the little orphan from Sidmouth to Kensington Palace. The weather was most severe, and the journey a trying one. The Houses of Parliament remembered, with respectful solicitude, the widowed and isolated state of the Duchess. Both Houses voted addresses of condolence. That from the Commons was presented by Lords Morpeth and Clive. She appeared in person, though unable to suppress her grief, with the infant Victoria in her arms, to receive the deputation. She presented the babe to the deputed Members, and pointed to her as the treasure to whose preservation and improvement she was resolved to dedicate her best energies and fondest love. The interview was exceedingly touching. A true woman, the Duchess could not conceal the intensity of her widowed grief; but that did not overshadow her maternal affection, and she recognised and spoke courageously of her duties, her responsibilities, and her high resolves. Public feeling and national anxiety accompanied her into her domestic privacy, and all classes of society took the deepest interest in all her movements.
The Queen, indeed, owes much to her mother, who lived long enough to see her daughter’s grandchildren.[Pg 21] The Duchess of Kent had been brought up under the immediate care and superintendence of her illustrious mother, whose character we have already described. She had shared the youthful lessons of her brother Leopold—a source, doubtless of great intellectual profit. In 1802, when she was but sixteen, much against her own wish, and only in compliance with the entreaties of her beloved father—who wished to see his only surviving daughter married, in such troublesome times, ere the end of his precarious and sickly life came—she became the wife of the Prince of Leiningen, a man eight-and-twenty years her senior. The union was most inappropriate and unwise. Her husband was repugnant in person and manners. He failed either to secure her confidence or contribute to her happiness. Yet she fulfilled her duties as a wife and mother in so exemplary a manner, from her marriage to her husband’s death, in 1814, that the breath of slander never sullied her fair fame. Indeed, by the purity of her life, the manner in which she discharged her maternal duties, and the graceful suavity of her manners, she did much to ennoble the character of the House of Leiningen, which her husband had done much to lower. Her marriage with the Duke of Kent was one of unmistakable affection, and was a very happy one. Their tastes were similar; but her meekness and tact had a beneficial influence in mitigating a certain stern and abrupt brusqueness which he partly inherited from his father, and partly derived from the camps and garrison towns in which his youth was spent. The simplicity and tender unaffectedness of her manners—a peculiarity distinctive of the highest class of well-bred German women—and her fascinating combination of[Pg 22] gentleness with gaiety, not only won and bound, by daily increasing ties, the affections of her husband, but of all those who had the good fortune to become personally acquainted with her admirable life and disposition.
FIRST YEARS OF CHILDHOOD.
Old Memories of Kensington Palace—Enlargements of the Structure by William III., Anne, Queen Caroline, and the Duke of Sussex—Maids of Honour—Rank and Beauty in the Gardens—Wilberforce and the Infant Princess—Victoria at Ramsgate—A Picture of Victoria when Five Years old—Her Physical Training—Popularity as a Child—Her Youthful Charities—A Narrow Escape from Death—Early Development of Quick Intelligence—Anecdotes—Love of Nature—Proneness to Self-will—But Counterbalanced by Candour—Waggishness—A Portrait of the Child-Princess by Leigh Hunt.
The infancy, girlhood, and budding womanhood of the Princess Victoria were chiefly spent at the Royal Palace of Kensington. It was her mother’s fixed residence, but the family were much at Claremont, where the Queen testifies that she spent the happiest days of her childhood. There were frequent trips made, too, to various watering-places; and, as the Princess grew in years, visits were paid at the country houses of some of the nobility. Leigh Hunt, in his exquisite book of gossip entitled “The Old Court Suburb,” thus happily describes the more salient and prominent features of the somewhat sombre region of the Queen’s up-bringing:—
In vain we are told that Wren is supposed to have built the south front, and Kent (a man famous in his time) the east front. We can no more get up any enthusiasm about it as a building, than if it were a box or a piece of cheese. But it possesses a Dutch solidity; it can[Pg 24] be imagined full of English comfort; it is quiet; in a good air; and, though it is a palace, no tragical history is connected with it: all which considerations give it a sort of homely, fireside character, which seems to represent the domestic side of royalty itself, and thus renders an interesting service to what is not always so well recommended by cost and splendour. Windsor Castle is a place to receive monarchs in; Buckingham Palace to see fashion in; Kensington Palace seems a place to drink tea in: and this is by no means a state of things in which the idea of royalty comes least home to the good wishes of its subjects. The reigns that flourished here, appositely enough to this notion of the building, were all tea-drinking reigns—at least on the part of the ladies; and if the present Queen does not reign there, she was born and bred there, growing up quietly under the care of a domestic mother; during which time, the pedestrian, as he now goes quietly along the gardens, fancies no harsher sound to have been heard from the Palace windows than the “tuning of the tea-things,” or the sound of a pianoforte.
The associations of Kensington Palace are almost entirely with the earlier Hanoverian reigns; the later Georges neglected it. Rumour hath it that this royal domain originated in the establishment of a nursery for the children of Henry VIII. If it were so, Elizabeth and Victoria must have been brought up on the same spot; but the tradition is not well supported. Its first ascertained proprietor was Heneage Finch, Speaker of the House of Commons at the accession of the First Charles, who built and occupied only a small nucleus of the present structure, which was enlarged from time to time by most of its successive occupants, but with no pretension, and without much plan. From the second Earl of Nottingham, the grandson of Finch, William III. bought the house and grounds. The latter he enlarged to the extent of twenty-six acres. To these Anne added thirty, and to these in turn Queen Caroline, wife of George II., added three hundred.[Pg 25] The house had been the while proportionately growing. Its last expansion was contributed by the Duke of Sussex.
The gardens were pedantically squared to Dutch uniformity by William of Orange, and the semblance of a Court which he held in this Palace was correspondingly gloomy and dismal. The most singular visitor ever received by William was the Czar Peter, who drove hither incognito in a hackney coach, on his arrival in London, and was afterwards entertained here with some slight show of state. In Anne’s time, the palace and gardens were little livelier than in William’s. The Queen hedged herself in behind absurd chevaux-de-frise of etiquette, and the court chroniclers of the period record little else than eating and drinking. Swift and Prior, Bolingbroke and Marlborough, Addison and Steele, nevertheless, lent occasional gleams of brightness and dignity to the otherwise sombre scene.
The most fascinating and memorable association of Kensington Palace is in connection with the Courts of the first two Georges, and of the son of the latter, Frederick Prince of Wales. These associations are specially connected with the bevies of frolicsome, and sometimes frail, maids of honour, who now live in the pages of Pope and Gay, of Hervey and Walpole. Chief among them was the gay, sprightly, and irresistible Molly Leppell, who resisted, in a manner equally indignant and comical, the degrading overtures of the coarse-souled George II. She married Hervey, the most effeminate and egregious dandy of his time. Chesterfield thus toasted her in a ballad on the beauties of the Court;—
Oh! if I had Bremen and Varden,
And likewise the Duchy of Zell,
I’d part with them all for a farden,
To have my dear Molly Leppell.
Caroline of Anspach, consort of Frederick, Prince of Wales, introduced the habit of promenading in gorgeous costume in the gardens, first on Saturday, then on Sunday, afternoons. By degrees the quality were admitted as well as the royal family and their immediate attendants. The liberty was gradually extended to the general public. Hence it was that Kensington Gardens became in time as open to all comers as are the royal parks. These gorgeous promenades ceased with the commencement of the last malady of George III. It was in allusion to the stately train of attendant beauties who accompanied the Princess Caroline of Wales, that Tickell wrote—
Each walk, with robes of various dyes bespread,
Seems from afar a moving tulip bed,
Where rich brocades and glossy damasks glow,
And chintz, the rival of the showery bow.
Here England’s Daughter, darling of the land,
Sometimes, surrounded with her virgin band,
Gleams through the shades. She, towering o’er the rest,
Stands fairest of the fairer kind confess’d;
Form’d to gain hearts that Brunswick’s cause denied,
And charm a people to her father’s side.
With the death of George II., the glory departed from Kensington. No future English King favoured or frequented it. George III. never resided in the Palace, and it was altogether too dull and homely for his eldest son. He was willing enough that his bookish brother Sussex, and his steady brother Kent, should abide in it;[Pg 27] and, as one writer puts it, depicting the “first gentleman in Europe” in a light far from pleasing, but for the use of which we fear there was too much foundation—“He was well content to think that the staid-looking house and formal gardens rendered the spot a good out-of-the-way sort of place enough, for obscuring the growth and breeding of his niece and probable heiress, the Princess Victoria, whose life, under the guidance of a wise mother, promised to furnish so estimable a contrast to his own.”
It was in the rooms, rich with such varied associations as those, some few of which we have cited, and surrounded by the remarkable collection of pictures, chiefly by Byzantine and early German painters—that England’s future Queen grew up from babyhood to womanhood. Amongst the very earliest notices of the infant Princess is the following, which we cite from a letter written by Wilberforce to his friend, Hannah More, on the 21st July, 1820. He says:—
In consequence of a very civil message from the Duchess of Kent, I waited on her this morning. She received me with her fine animated child on the floor by her side, with its playthings, of which I soon became one. She was very civil; but, as she did not sit down, I did not think it right to stay above a quarter of an hour; and there being but a female attendant and footman present, I could not well get up any topic, so as to carry on a continued discourse. She apologised for not speaking English well enough to talk it; but intimated a hope that she might talk it better and longer with me at some future time. She spoke of her situation [this was, probably, in reference to the cold treatment of her and hers by George IV.], and her manner was quite delightful.
Four years later, the Duchess and the little Princess paid one of many visits to Ramsgate: and it would[Pg 28] appear that the Duchess of Kent had already succeeded in being able to talk English “better and longer” with Wilberforce “at some future time;” for an eye-witness, who was familiar with all the group, witnessed the following scene. It was a fine summer day: too warm anywhere but on the shore of the sea, the breeze from which sufficiently moderated the temperature. A little girl, with a fair, light form, was sporting on the sands in all the redolence of youth and health. Her dress was simple—plain straw bonnet, with a white riband round the crown, a coloured muslin frock, and “as pretty a pair of shoes, on as pretty a pair of feet, as I ever remember to have seen from China to Kamschatka”—so testifies the authority from whom we quote. The child had two companions—her mother and William Wilberforce. The latter looked as lovingly on the child as did her mother. His kindly eye followed with tender interest her every footstep, and he was evidently meditating on the great destiny which was in store for her, when her mother, less meditative, more concerned with the affairs of the present, suddenly observed that her daughter had got her shoe’s wetted by a breaker. She waved her hand, and Victoria, obedient to the signal, at once rejoined her mother and her friend. Perhaps another motive might have been at work in the mother’s breast; for immediately the child had joined the elders, Wilberforce took her hand in both of his, and addressed to her some kindly words, doubtless of excellent counsel, for the blue eyes of the girl looked fixedly at her venerable instructor, and the devoted mother glanced from one to the other, evidently interested and affected by the contrast. Wilberforce was no wearisome restrainer of the[Pg 29] buoyancy of youth; a few minutes later, he and his young companion were standing at the margin of the tide, watching the encroachments of each new breaker, and the dexterity with which a pet Newfoundland dog brought bits of stick out of the waves.
During the earliest years of her childhood, Victoria does not seem to have been harassed with book-learning—a most wise and excellent omission. In 1823, the Dowager Duchess of Coburg wrote to her daughter—“Do not yet tease your little puss with learning; she is so young still.” The Queen’s mother followed the good advice; it was the cultivation of the heart of her child at which she first strove. Above everything, any approach to pride or hauteur was discouraged. The convictions equally with the natural temperament of the Duchess, led her to regard such a quality as specially to be avoided. She was trained to be courteous, affable, lively, and to put social inferiors perfectly at their ease. In her juvenile sea-side and other excursions, it was constantly observed by every one that the faces of the bathing-women, and others of the same class, whose services were needed, lighted up with genuine, unaffected gladness whenever the young Princess appeared. The following little picture deserves to be reproduced, without tampering with the colours of its portrayer:—“As she proceeded up the High Street from the sands, there sat on the low step of a closed shop an aged Irishwoman, pale, wan, dejected, sorrowful, her head bent forward, and whilst all nature was gay, she looked sickly, sad, and famishing. Whether she was too depressed to beg, or too exhausted at that moment to make the effort, I cannot tell, but she asked[Pg 30] for no alms, and even looked not at the passers-by. The young Princess was attracted by her appearance, and spoke to the Duchess: ‘I think not,’ were the only words I heard from her mamma; and, ‘Oh, yes, indeed!’ was all I could catch of the youthful reply. I have no doubt the Duchess thought the old woman was not in need of relief, or would be offended by the offer of alms; but the Princess had looked under her bonnet, and gained a better insight into her condition. There was a momentary pause; the Princess ran back a few steps most nimbly, and with a smile of heartfelt delight placed some silver in the hands of the old Irishwoman. Tall and stately was the poor creature, and as she rose slowly with clasped hands and riveted features, she implored the blessing of Heaven on the ‘English lady.’ She was so taken by surprise by this unexpected mark of beneficence on the part of she knew not whom, that she turned over her sixpences again and again, thanked the Virgin, as well as the ‘young lady,’ a thousand times, and related to those who stopped to hear her exclamations, the ‘good luck’ that had come upon her.”
While still not a year old, and ere her father’s death, the intensity of interest which the people took in the safety and welfare of the Princess had been strongly displayed in the universal satisfaction which was expressed at her providential escape from being wounded, if not killed, in consequence of some boys shooting at birds near the temporary residence of the Duke at Sidmouth. Some of the shots penetrated the window of the nursery, and passed very near the child’s head. This universal interest became yet deeper, when, after the lapse of two or three years, both of the daughters of the Duke of[Pg 31] Clarence having died, and there being no probability of any issue in the line of either the Dukes of York or Clarence, she became the eventual successor to the throne, in the event of the deaths of these two elder brothers of her father. It was now learned with delight that she passed through the ordinary maladies of childhood favourably, and that her recovery from them was speedy. The public had ample opportunities afforded them of observing her growing and healthful strength; and all commented with pleasure upon the circumstance that she was not kept secluded from the view and observation of the people, that her rides and walks were generally in public, that she was growing up towards maturity in the sight of the nation, and as the child of the country. It was further a matter of great general rejoicing that those who were selected, even from the earliest period, to surround her person were of the most irreproachable character, and that moral worth was sought for in her preceptors even more than brilliant attainments.
It is especially worthy of notice that the Duke and Duchess of Clarence, their hearts not being made in the slightest degree callous or soured by their own melancholy bereavements and the disappointment of their fondest hopes, formed and displayed for their niece a sincere and warm attachment. They took from the very first the warmest interest in all her vicissitudes and illnesses; and when they became King and Queen their elevated positions only seemed to increase the warmth of their regard, and the copious flow of their practical kindness. It was, therefore, no wonder that when, under Providence, Victoria became Queen she treated the Queen Dowager with most unequivocal respect and esteem, regarding[Pg 32] her suggestions with deference, and her wishes with loving compliance.
Spite of many sinister rumours, the Princess grew up strong and vigorous. Her mother was especially careful to fortify her constitution, and so to prepare it to encounter the hard work and manifold anxiety which are the inevitable lot of a British sovereign. Many there were—some of them with ends of their own to gain—who kept prophesying that “the daughter of the Duke of Kent would never attain her legal majority;” or, that “she would never marry;” again, that “she could never become the mother of a family.” Much alarm was caused by these prognostications. For one thing was above all others ardently desired by the nation—that the Duke of Cumberland, who stood next in succession after the Princess, should never become King of England. Even if he had not been an object of something more than suspicion, it was universally desired that England should never again (after King William’s death) be united with Hanover under one monarch. But as facts became known by degrees about the Princess, as her healthy face and agile frame became familiar in London, and in many parts of the land, the apprehensions died away, and the “frail, delicate, sickly child,” whose fabricated ailments had been made the subject of so much sham sympathy, was looked upon as a fabulous invention.
It soon became known that her physical and mental characteristics were of a nature directly the opposite of what had been so industriously reported. She was extremely active, and had a healthy love of sports and games. She had an inquiring mind, not only restless in the pursuit, but clear in the comprehension of[Pg 33] knowledge. She soon developed, too, much decision of character. Seemingly incapable of fatigue, she was the first to begin, and the last to leave off, a study, a romp, a game, a new duty, and equally eager to resume an old occupation. This peculiarity, it was gladly observed, was an inheritance from her father; but her mother also set her a congenial example of industry and perseverance. Such stories as the following were gleefully passed throughout the land from lip to lip. While she was learning her alphabet, she, doubtful of the utility of being so tormented, ejaculated—“What good this?—what good this?” She was told that “mamma could know all that was contained in the great book on the table because she knew her letters, whilst the little daughter could not.” This was quite enough, and the young acolyte of the alphabet cried out, “I learn, too—I learn, too—very quick.” And she did become rapidly mistress of her letters. Her mother sought to teach her to be satisfied with simple pleasures, and here she was a most apt pupil. Once, when she was so young that she could not express what she felt, she dragged her uncle Clarence to the window to observe a beautiful sunset. To her uncle Leopold, too, she was constantly pointing out objects of natural beauty, on which he invariably improved the opportunity by giving her prompt and clear explanations of the phenomena which evoked her admiration. Her engrossing passion, indeed—as was that of her future husband—was for cabinets of natural history, menageries, museums, &c. For pictures she had an equal love, and one of the first acquirements in which she became proficient was sketching from nature.
[Pg 34]Perhaps the greatest danger she incurred, and the one which her mother had to take the greatest pains to avert, was the likelihood that her independent decision of character, which she derived from the Hanoverian half of her ancestry, might degenerate into stubbornness and self-will. But her natural sense of justice, and ready openness to clear conviction, proved an admirable counterpoise. With peculiar ingenuousness of character, she unreservedly admitted an error the very instant she perceived it. Once, for example, when on a visit to Earl Fitzwilliam, a bosom friend of her father, the party were walking in the grounds, and she had run on in advance. An under-gardener cautioned her not to go down a certain walk, as, said he, in his provincial dialect, the rain had made the ground “slape.” “Slape! slape!” cried she, rapidly, and in the true George III. style; “and pray, what is ‘slape?’” “Very slippery, miss—your Royal Highness—ma’am,” replied he. “Oh! that’s all,” she replied; “thank you,” and at once proceeded. She had not advanced many yards, when she came down heavily to the ground. The Earl had been observing all that had passed, from a few yards’ distance, and he cried out, “There! now your Royal Highness has an explanation of the term ‘slape,’ both theoretically and practically.” “Yes, my lord,” she somewhat meekly said, “I think I have. I shall never forget the word ‘slape.’” On a similar occasion, when cautioned not to frolic with a dog whose temper was not very reliable, she persisted in doing so, and he made a snap at her hand. Her cautioner ran solicitously, believing that she had been bitten. “Oh, thank you! thank you!” said she. “You’re right, and I am[Pg 35] wrong; but he didn’t bite me—he only warned me. I shall be careful in future.”
The following incident shows that at least on some occasions a keen spirit of waggishness entered strongly into her self-will. When first she took lessons on the piano, she objected strongly to the monotonous fingering, as she had formerly done to A B C. She was, of course, informed that all success as a musician depended upon her first becoming “mistress of the piano.”
“Oh, I am to be mistress of my piano, am I?” asked she. To that the reply was a repetition of the statement.
“Then what would you think of me if I became mistress at once?”
“That would be impossible. There is no royal road to music. Experience and great practice are essential.”
“Oh, there is no royal road to music, eh? No royal road? And I am not mistress of my pianoforte? But I will be, I assure you; and the royal road is this”—at the same time closing the piano, locking it, and taking the key—“There! that’s being mistress of the piano! and the royal road to learning is, never to take a lesson till you’re in the humour to do it.”
After the laugh which her joke had provoked in herself and others had subsided, she at once volunteered to resume the lesson.
We cannot more fitly conclude this chapter, ere we proceed to travel an important stage further in our attempt to trace the youthful days of the Queen, than by presenting a picture of her, as she appeared at this period of her life to the genial eyes of Leigh Hunt,[Pg 36] to whom we have been already indebted at the commencement of this chapter:—
We remember well the peculiar kind of personal pleasure which it gave us to see the future Queen, the first time we ever did see her, coming up a cross path from the Bayswater Gate, with a girl of her own age by her side, whose hand she was holding, as if she loved her. It brought to our mind the warmth of our own juvenile friendships, and made us fancy that she loved everything else that we had loved in like measure—books, trees, verses, Arabian tales, and the good mother who had helped to make her so affectionate. A magnificent footman, in scarlet, came behind her, with the splendidest pair of calves, in white stockings, that we had ever beheld. He looked somehow like a gigantic fairy, personating, for his little lady’s sake, the grandest footman he could think of; and his calves he seemed to have made out of a couple of the biggest chaise-lamps in the possession of the godmother of Cinderella. As the Princess grew up, the world seemed never to hear of her except as it wished to hear—that is to say, in connection with her mother; and now it never hears of her but in connection with children of her own, and her husband, and her mother still [this was written in 1855], and all good household pleasures and hospitalities, and public virtues of a piece with them. May life ever continue to appear to her what, indeed, it really is to all who have eyes for seeing beyond the surface—namely, a wondrous fairy scene, strange, beautiful, mournful too, yet hopeful of being “happy ever after,” when its story is over; and wise, meantime, in seeing much where others see nothing, in shedding its tears patiently, and in doing its best to diminish the tears around it.
EDUCATION OF THE PRINCESS VICTORIA.
Additional Grant by Parliament for the Maintenance and Education of the Princess—Wise Lessons learned at her Mother’s Knees—A Visit to George IV. at Windsor—Assiduous Pursuit of Knowledge—Accession of William IV.—Victoria becomes next in succession to the Crown—Regency Bill—Satisfaction of the good Grandmother at Coburg—Her Death—Joy of Victoria at the Elevation of her Uncle to the Belgian Throne—Parliamentary Inquiry into the Progress of her Education—Satisfactory Report in Response—Presented at Court—Great Ball on her Twelfth Birthday at St. James’s Palace—Court Scandal and Baseless Rumours—The Duchess of Northumberland appointed Governess—The Princess and the Poet Southey.
The time had now arrived when, in the opinion, not only of the private friends of the Duchess of Kent, but of the Ministers of the Crown, it was held that a more liberal provision should be made for the increasing cost of the training of the Princess, than the very moderate annual allowance which the Duchess of Kent had as yet received. This matter was formally brought before Parliament on the occasion of the Princess attaining her sixth birthday. Up to this date, and for some little time subsequently to it, King George IV. seems to have hardly paid the slightest heed to his niece and ultimate successor. On her fifth birthday, Prince Leopold, who throughout filled a true father’s place, gave a banquet in her honour, at which most of the members[Pg 38] of the English Royal Family, and the Prince Leiningen, son of the Duchess of Kent and half-brother of Victoria, were present. On this occasion, the child was much admired for her frankness, quickness, and talent, but especially for her deep attachment to her mother. Her mother took occasion to impress upon her the consideration that such attentions as those which were then shown her were rendered in the hope that she would cultivate the qualities and graces which alone could make her a worthy and acceptable ruler of the British empire. “It is not you,” said she, “but your future office and rank which are regarded by the country; and you must so act as never to bring that office and that rank into disgrace or disrespect.” And when the Duchess took her child to see for the first time the statue which had just been erected at the top of Portland Place to her father’s memory, she was careful to make her know and feel that “dear papa’s likeness was placed there, not merely because he was a prince, but because he was a good man, was kind to the poor, caused little boys and girls to be taught to read and write, helped to get money from good people to cure the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and did all he could to make bad people good.”
In May, 1825, the sixth birthday of the Princess arrived. It became desirable, not merely to extend the sphere of her knowledge, but to introduce her to society at unavoidable expense; and, when she appeared in public and took trips in the country, to surround her with some of the splendour which properly belonged to her position. Accordingly, Lord Liverpool, the Premier, presented a Message from the King, requesting that some[Pg 39] provision should be made for the Princess. His lordship spoke in the highest terms of the Duchess of Kent; eulogised her for having supported and educated her daughter without making any application to Parliament; and demonstrated, that her education must, from that date, be much more wide and costly. He proposed an additional grant of £6,000 per annum to the Duchess, to continue throughout the minority of her daughter. The House of Lords cordially acquiesced in the proposal. In the Lower House, Mr. Brougham, although uniting mother and daughter in one common eulogy, objected to the amount proposed. Mr. Hume supported him, suggesting an annuity increasing from year to year; but, on a division, the original proposal was carried by a majority of fifty.
Only after this formal act of national recognition does it appear that the King deigned to turn his personal attention in the direction of his niece. The year after, we find the Duchess of Coburg writing to her daughter, and referring to the fact that she had seen by the English papers, that “His Majesty, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, and the Princess Victoria, went on Virginia Water.” “The little monkey,” she writes, “must have pleased him. She is such a pretty, clever child.” It was reported at the time that the King, on the occasion of this visit to Windsor, shared the general delight at the intelligence and sprightliness of his charming little niece. He caused her to dine in state with him, and when he asked her what tune she would like the band to play during dinner, she courteously and naïvely replied, “God save the King.”
The years intervening until 1830 were passed in[Pg 40] almost complete quietude and seclusion by the Princess; her education being now most assiduously pursued.
The year 1830 made an important difference in the position of the Princess. By the death of George IV., the Duke of Clarence became King, and—the Duke of York having died in 1827—she now stood next in direct succession to the throne. In the last month of the year a Regency Bill was passed, of which these were the chief provisions:—In the event of Queen Adelaide bearing a posthumous child, Her Majesty should be guardian and Regent during the minority. If that event should not occur, the Duchess of Kent was to be guardian and Regent during the minority of her daughter, the Princess Victoria, the heiress-presumptive. That Princess should not marry while a minor, without the consent of the King; or, if he died, without the consent of both Houses. When the Report of the Regency Bill was brought up, Lord Lyndhurst moved and carried a clause to the effect that in case the Duchess of Kent should marry a foreigner in the lifetime of His Majesty, but without his consent, she should, by that act, forfeit all pretensions to the Regency.
The Duke of Buckingham, in his “Courts and Cabinets of William IV. and Victoria,” thus remarked on this proviso:—
The position of the Princess attracted towards her Royal Highness the solicitude and sympathy of all classes of the people. A proper consideration of her chance of succeeding to the throne showed that there was much at stake, and the bitter disappointment caused by the untimely fate of the last female heiress presumptive, gave deeper feeling to the interest with which she was regarded. It was desirable that her youth should be, as much as possible, watched over to protect it from all evil contingencies, and though there could not be a better [Pg 41]guardian for the Princess than the one nature had provided her with, the anxiety of a nation demanded precautions that, under other circumstances, would have been considered totally unnecessary. We can now (1861) afford to smile on the jealous affection with which Her Royal Highness was fenced round thirty years ago.
The satisfactory settlement of the Regency question gave great satisfaction to the good grandmother at Coburg. She wrote to her daughter, on receipt of the news—
I should have been sorry if the Regency had been given into other hands than yours. It would not have been a just return for your constant devotion and care to your child, if this had not been done. May God give you wisdom and strength to do your duty, if called upon to undertake it. May God bless and protect my little darling!—If I could but once see her again! The print you have sent to me is not like the dear picture I have; the quantity of curls hide the well-shaped head, and make it look too large for the lovely little figure.
It was not fated that the Duchess of Coburg should ever see her granddaughter again; she died within a twelvemonth of writing the above. Her latest letters to her daughter were characterised by a peculiar warmth of affection for the Princess. Writing in the summer of 1830, on the occasion of Victoria’s birthday, she said—
My blessings and good wishes for the day which gave you the sweet Blossom of May! May God preserve and protect the valuable life of that lovely flower from all the dangers that will beset her mind and heart!
And when the news of the death of George IV. reached her, she wrote—
God bless Old England, where my beloved children live, and where the sweet Blossom of May may one day reign! May God yet for many years keep the weight of a crown from her young head, and let the intelligent, clever child grow up to girlhood, before this dangerous grandeur devolves upon her!
[Pg 42]England owes a deep debt of gratitude to this excellent and intelligent woman, for to her we are indebted for that training of her daughter, which fitted that daughter to train in turn, for us and for our advantage, Queen Victoria.
An event of considerable influence upon the well-being and happiness of the Queen we must not omit to chronicle, ere we pass onwards in the course of our narrative. Prince Leopold had been designated by the great guaranteeing Powers as the ruler of the newly emancipated state of Greece. He was prepared to accept the position. This distressed his niece, who had been brought up under his kindly tutelage from her birth; but circumstances which it does not concern our purpose to dwell upon, induced Leopold to break off the Greek negotiation. Shortly after, to the great delight of Victoria, he was nominated by the Powers, and accepted by his future subjects, as King of the Belgians. This ensured his being constantly comparatively near to his niece. How frequent were his visits to England, as long as his life lasted, no resident in London needs to be informed; up till within the last few years, his face was almost as familiar in the parks as those of the members of the Queen’s own family. He often appeared in London suddenly, and without announcement, having been summoned, it was generally believed, on such occasions, to consult with the Queen on some point of imminent moment. Such summonses he always responded to with instant alacrity.
In the year 1831, the public became anxious to know how the education of the heiress-presumptive to the throne progressed; what was the nature of her studies,[Pg 43] and which she preferred and most diligently pursued. Prompt, responsive, and satisfactory statements were rendered. It appeared that since the accession of King William, her tuition had been almost entirely entrusted to English teachers. Mr. Amos instructed her in the principles of the English Constitution, Mr. Westall in drawing; she had made considerable progress in Latin, and could read Horace with fluency. It was further stated that her love of music was enthusiastic, and that it was the orchestral rather than the dramatic attraction that caused her to frequent the theatres so much as she did. It was remarked that, on the occasion of the coronation of William IV., which took place on the 8th of September, neither the Princess nor her mother were present. Their absence was explained by the announcement, that the health of the Princess rendered a sojourn in the Isle of Wight necessary. Prudent persons held that, even had it been otherwise, her tender years and peculiar position rendered her absence preferable to her presence. She was but twelve years old, and it was commonly stated that only a year before had it been deemed wise fully to make her aware of the regal destiny which was before her. Gossip-mongers—a whole host of whom circulated the most absurd rumours about the Princess from her most tender years until long after she had become Queen—alleged that the real reason of her absence was the fact that her proper place in the ceremony was not assigned to her. The real truth we believe to have been as follows. Since the accession of her uncle Clarence, Victoria had been plunged into a round of gaiety which did not at all comport either with her years or a certain fragility of health, which now for a[Pg 44] short time succeeded the fine animal power and spirits of the years preceding. She had been presented at the first drawing-room held by Queen Adelaide, the most magnificent that had been held since the presentation of Charlotte, Princess of Wales, on the occasion of her marriage. This was her first appearance in state. She arrived with her mother, attended by the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte St. Maur, Lady Catherine Jenkinson, the Honourable Mrs. Cust, Lady Conroy, the Baroness Lehzen, Sir J. Conroy, and General Wetherall. Her dress was made entirely of articles manufactured in Great Britain, and consisted of a simple, modest, and becoming blonde frock. She was the great object of interest present, stood on the left of the King, and contemplated the élite of her future subjects with a dignified amiability which charmed every one. On her twelfth birthday, in the same year, she was overwhelmed with presents; amongst others, two beautiful ponies, presented by the Duchess of Gordon, which became especial pets. The Queen gave a juvenile ball in her honour, which Queen Victoria has often talked of in later times, as the scene which of all others made the deepest impression on her childish imagination. Spite of all this, and of the notorious and profuse kindness with which the King and Queen Adelaide had always treated her, many were found to believe that they were jealous of, and meant to slight her. The truth was, that the Duchess of Northumberland, who, at the suggestion of the King himself, had been appointed to the high and important office of governess to the Princess, began to be alarmed at the consequences of so much festivity and excitement. She objected to her frequent attendance at drawing-rooms, and also[Pg 45] recommended absence from the fatiguing coronation ceremony.
The selection of this lady for the important office which she filled was a wise one, and the public judgment approved it. She possessed great personal attractions, mental powers of unusual range, and the highest rank. The appointment was by no means a nominal one, or one merely of state. Her visits to Kensington Palace were constant, and she frequently remained there all day. On one occasion, while her Grace was instructing her pupil, Southey called, and was greeted by the Princess and the gouvernante very warmly. He conversed for some time with the ladies; first on poetry, then on history. He afterwards used to state with pride, that the Princess told him that she read his prose and poetical compositions with equal delight. The “Life of Nelson” especially charmed her. “That,” she said, “is a delightful book indeed; and I am sure I could read it half a dozen times over.” The gossip-mongers also alleged that the Duchess endeavoured to give a political bias to the education of the Princess. Some uneasiness was created at this. But when the matter was properly inquired into, it was ascertained that, neither in the selection of books to be studied, nor in the remarks made upon their text, was the slightest party colour given to the education of the royal pupil of the Duchess. It was while under the care of this lady that the Princess acquired her well-known admirable horsemanship. To Fozard, the best riding-master of the day, was entrusted her tuition in riding. She soon became distinguished by the ease of her carriage, and her truly royal air and demeanour. This was a common[Pg 46] subject of admiring remark by distinguished foreigners; amongst others, by Count Orloff, to whom, in 1832, the Duchess of Kent gave a splendid banquet. The Princess, after she was removed from the active care of the Duchess of Northumberland, gave the best proof of her gratitude and sense of the services she had rendered her, by keeping up with her Grace a constant epistolary correspondence. Wherever she went, in the many tours through England which she made while passing through her teens, she wrote letters to the Duchess describing whatever interested and instructed her in what she saw. This correspondence was really a voluntary continuation of her education.
THE PRINCESS IN HER TEENS.
Visits paid to many parts of England—Love of Cathedrals and Church Music—Trip to North Wales and the Midland Counties—Visit to a Cotton Mill—To Oxford—Gala Day at Southampton—Interview with the Young Queen of Portugal—Confirmation of the Princess—Tour to the North—York Musical Festival—At Ramsgate with the King of the Belgians—A Noble Deed at Tunbridge Wells.
In the year subsequent to the coronation of King William, the Duchess of Kent and her daughter spent much time in making visits to various parts of England. We have already seen that they were in the Isle of Wight at the date of the coronation. The same year, they spent some time at Worthing, and visited Lord Liverpool and his daughters at Buxted Park, whence they proceeded to Malvern, where their liberal relief of distress caused them to be much beloved. While at Malvern, they visited the cathedral at Worcester. Cathedrals were especial favourites with the Princess, and Church music gratified her as much as ecclesiastical architecture. To the public institutions of the cathedral cities which she visited she was an invariable benefactress, and willingly beggared herself of all her pocket-money that she might be the better able to meet the demands of art, science, literature, and poverty upon her benevolence. This year they also visited Hereford and Bath, and were magnificently entertained by the Earls Somers and Beauchamp, at Eastnor Castle and Maddresfield Court.
[Pg 48]In 1831, they sojourned for a time at Claremont, in the Isle of Wight, and at Weymouth. The next year chronicled a more extensive autumnal tour than any hitherto undertaken. To North Wales they repaired first. Having seen its romantic beauties, they reached the ancient city of Chester on the 17th of October and on entering the cathedral were respectfully received and courteously addressed by the Bishop. The Duchess of Kent thus replied to the welcome of the Prelate:—“I cannot better allude to your good feeling towards the Princess than by joining fervently in the wish that she may set an example in her conduct of that piety towards God, and charity towards man, which is the only sure foundation either of individual happiness or national prosperity.” From Chester they proceeded to Eaton Hall, the palatial residence of the Grosvenors and thence to Chatsworth, the still more splendid abode of the Cavendish family. From Chatsworth they went to Belper, where they examined the cotton mills of the Messrs. Strutt, and were most cordially received by the numerous factory hands. Mr. James Strutt, by means of a model, explained to the Princess the several processes of cotton-spinning, which she listened to with keen attention and ready apprehension. The Queen retained a lively and fragrant recollection of this visit; and, years after, she created the son of her cicerone a peer, by the title of Lord Belper. The week following they visited Hardwicke Hall, Chesterfield, and Matlock. Thence they proceeded to Shugborough, the seat of the Earl of Lichfield. Their next honoured entertainer was the Earl of Shrewsbury, at Alton Towers. While there, they visited Lichfield Cathedral[Pg 49] and graciously received congratulatory addresses from the clergy and corporation. Their next stage was the seat of Lord Liverpool, who was one of the staunchest friends of the Duchess of Kent, of whom his daughter, Lady Catherine Jenkinson, was one of the Ladies-in-waiting. Proceeding homewards, they honoured with successive visits Earl Powis, the Hon. R. H. Clive, M.P., the Earls of Plymouth and Abingdon. From the seat of the latter they went to Oxford, which city they entered with an escort of yeomanry. The Vice-Chancellor presented an appropriate address in the Theatre, which was crowded with the celebrities of the University. The Duchess of Kent made the following answer:—
We close a most interesting journey by a visit to this University, that the Princess may see, as far as her years will allow, all that is interesting in it. The history of our country has taught her to know its importance by the many distinguished persons who, by their character and talents, have been raised to eminence by the education they have received in it. Your loyalty to the King, and recollection of the favour you have enjoyed under the paternal sway of his house, could not fail, I was sure, to lead you to receive his niece with all the disposition you evince to make this visit agreeable and instructive to her. It is my object to insure, by all means in my power, her being so educated as to meet the just expectation of all classes in this great and free country.
Their Royal Highnesses returned to Kensington on the 9th of November.
In 1833, the rambles of mother and daughter did not extend beyond the south coast; Portsmouth, Weymouth, and the Isle of Wight being the respective halting-places. While residing at Norris, East Cowes, they attended the ceremony of opening the new landing-pier at the fast rising port of Southampton. A steamer[Pg 50] towed the Royal yacht from Cowes into Southampton Water, where were waiting a deputation, representing the corporation of the town, in an eight-oared barge, with one of the town-sergeants standing with the silver oar in the leads. The deputation having stated the object of the day’s ceremonial, the Duchess of Kent replied to the effect that she desired her daughter early to become attached to works of utility. They were then rowed ashore, amid the cheers of 25,000 spectators, and entertained at luncheon; subsequently, being requested to name the pier, the Duchess designated it the “Royal Pier.” Countless festivities followed in the evening, and “the townspeople were almost as proud of the presence of the Princess, as of the completion of their pier.”
The year 1834 was that in which the Princess was confirmed. This holy rite was administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the Chapel Royal, St. James’s, in July. Next month, mother and daughter visited Tunbridge Wells; the month following they went northwards, visited the Archbishop of York at Bishopsthorpe, and attended the grand musical festival in his cathedral. On their homeward route, they were entertained by the Earls of Harewood and Fitzwilliam, and the Duke of Rutland; passed some time with the King and Queen of the Belgians, at Ramsgate, and finally visited the Duke of Wellington at Walmer Castle. An incident which occurred during their stay at Tunbridge, must not be omitted from our biography. The husband of one of the actresses in the small theatre of the place died, leaving an impoverished wife, who was just about to become a mother. The fact came to the knowledge of the Princess, and she applied to her mother[Pg 51] for aid. She at once gave £10 to her daughter, who added an equal sum from her own purse; she became her own almoner, hastened to the afflicted woman, conversed with her, and continued to make inquiries about her condition. Nor did this end her care. When she came to the throne, three years later, she at once sent to the poor woman a kindly intimation that an annuity of £40 would be paid to her for life.
Another series of visits, and renewed intercourse with the much-loved uncle and his young Orleanist wife at Ramsgate, filled the autumnal months of 1835.
EARLY DAYS OF PRINCE ALBERT.
Birth—Melancholy Story of his Mother—Brought up under the Care of his two Excellent Grandmothers—His Winning Ways as a Child—His Tutor, Florschütz—The Brothers, Ernest and Albert—Visit to Brussels, and its Beneficial Effects—Hard Study—Tour through Germany, &c.—First Visit to England, and Meeting with Victoria—Studies at Brussels—Enters the University of Bonn—Tour to Switzerland and Italy—Public Announcement of Betrothal—Leaves Coburg and Gotha for his Marriage.
Albert, the second son of Duke Ernest I. of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and his wife, the Princess Louise, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, was born at the Rosenau, a charming summer residence belonging to the Duke, about four miles from Coburg, on the 26th of August, 1819. His mother is described as handsome, though of very diminutive proportions, fair, with blue eyes; and her son Albert, whom she idolised, closely resembled her. She was clever and entertaining; yet her marriage was an unhappy one, and a separation took place by mutual consent in 1824, after which date the Duchess never saw her children. Two years later the separation was turned into a divorce. The Prince never forgot her, but spoke of her to his dying day with much tenderness, and the very first gift which he ever made to the Princess Victoria was a little pin which his mother had given him. Not until the Prince was almost a young man did his mother die. When[Pg 53] she died her race became extinct, save in the persons of her two sons. Many years later, her remains were brought to Coburg, and laid in the family mausoleum beside the Duke and his second wife. This mausoleum was not completed until 1860, in which year Queen Victoria deposited a votive wreath on the tomb of the mother of her husband. Prince Albert’s paternal grandmother, the Duchess Dowager of Coburg, in writing to her daughter, the Duchess of Kent, announcing Albert’s birth, lauded his beauty, and—little thinking how the fortunes of the two infant cousins were to be intertwined hereafter—thus concluded her communication:—“How pretty the May Flower (the Princess Victoria, born the preceding May) will be when I see it in a year’s time. Siebold cannot sufficiently describe what a dear little love it is. Une bonne fois, adieu! Kiss your husband and children.” Siebold was an accoucheuse who had attended at the births of both the children. On the 19th of September the Prince was christened, and thus named:—Francis Charles Augustus Albert Emmanuel.
The young Prince seems to have been adored as a child by all, whether relatives or others, who came in contact with him. “He leads captive,” said his fond mother, when he was two years old, “all hearts by his beauty and gentle grace.” After the sad separation of his father from his mother, the Prince was brought up largely under the care of his father’s mother, whom the Queen describes, from personal recollection, as “a most remarkable woman, with a most powerful, energetic, almost masculine mind, accompanied with great tenderness of heart, and extreme love for nature.” Of an[Pg 54] evening she used to tell to her two grandchildren, Ernest and Albert, the stories of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, and, when they were old enough, employed them in writing letters to her dictation. She fondly described Albert, when he was not yet two years old, by the pet, diminutive name, “Alberinchen.” And she says—“With his large blue eyes and dimpled cheeks, he is bewitching, forward, and quick as a weasel. He can already say everything.” The step-maternal grandmother of the Prince too, second wife of his maternal grandfather, was sensible, kindly, and good, and took an interest in the children by no means inferior to that displayed by their own grandmother. With the former lady they spent very much of their time in their early years, at Gotha, and at her mansion in the vicinity of that town.
When Albert was not yet four years old he, with his brother, was removed to the care of a tutor, Herr Florschütz, who most admirably discharged his duties, which he continued to fulfil until his pupils had become young men. With the assistance of masters for special subjects, he conducted the whole of their early educational training, and continued to control their studies until they left the University of Bonn. The two brothers, spite of the difference of about a twelvemonth in their ages, pursued all studies in common, and the closest brotherly love and amity united them from first to last.
The younger Prince was not nearly so robust as his brother, but his intellect was more vigorous, and his force of will decidedly greater; “he always held,” said his uncle Leopold, “accordingly, a certain sway over his elder brother, who rather kindly submitted to it.” The[Pg 55] Princes were not much, in their early years, with their father, who was much from home, especially when settling the junction of the duchy of Gotha with his own of Coburg. The former he succeeded to partly in right of his wife, and partly by a mutual compact of exchange of territory, entered into with other reigning princes of the old Saxon stock. This period was passed by the Princes at Rosenau, with their tutor, varied by visits to the mansions of the two grandmothers.
In a memorandum drawn up by Count Arthur Mensdorff, cousin of the Prince, he describes the young Albert when about ten years of age, at which period the cousins contracted a friendship which lasted unimpaired until the Prince’s death. His disposition was mild and benevolent; nothing could make him angry, except anything unjust or dishonest. He was never wild or noisy, and his favourite study was natural history. He was a good mimic, and had a keen sense of the ludicrous; but he never pushed a joke to the extent of hurting one’s feelings. His moral purity was as conspicuous as the meekness of his disposition.
In November of 1831, the Princes suffered a great bereavement in the death of their admirable grandmother, the Duchess Dowager of Coburg; she died in the arms of her two eldest sons. She had, from an early period, formed the wish that a marriage should be contracted between her two grandchildren, Albert and Victoria.
In 1832, the young Princes, in their turn, accompanied their father in a journey to visit their uncle, King Leopold. This was a most important event in the Prince’s life; for, though the visit was of but short[Pg 56] duration, the spectacle which he then saw, of a nation which had freed itself, and worked out its own destiny, had the strongest effect upon his mind and conscience, which thence grew in attachment to liberal principles. His deeply-rooted love of art, too, received a strong stimulus from the splendid architectural and artistic treasures of the old Belgian city. On his return from Brussels, being now about thirteen years old, he became remarkably studious, and vigorously set himself to the pursuit of an unusually comprehensive circle of subjects.
The only recreation which he pursued with vigour was deer-stalking, and this most beneficially promoted the robustness of a frame as yet distinguished by delicacy. On Palm Sunday, 1835, he was confirmed, and his heart seems, at and from this period, to have come under the influence of religious convictions of peculiar depth and sincerity, though of singular freedom from all traces of bigotry.
The confirmation of the Princes was immediately followed by a series of visits to various of their imperial, regal, princely, and noble relatives and friends throughout Germany and the provinces on the Danube. They visited in succession Mecklenburg, Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Pesth, and Ofen. In May, 1836, the Princes came to England, on a visit to their aunt Kent. It was on this occasion that Albert and Victoria first met.
On his return to the Continent from this his first and most gratifying visit to England, the Duke of Coburg placed Albert and his elder brother for a time under the care of their uncle at Brussels. A private house was taken for them, in which they pursued their studies under Dr. Drury, an English clergyman, who had been appointed[Pg 57] their tutor. This gentleman recorded this testimony of his pupil, when, shortly afterwards, he was removed from his tutelage, and before any idea was entertained about his distinguished future position:—“His attainments are various, and solid too; his abilities are superior; his disposition amiable; his conduct unexceptionable; and, above all, his belief in, and his attachment to, the Protestant religion is sincere.”
In the summer following (1837) the two brothers were entered as students of law, or, more correctly, of jurisprudence (juris studiosi), at the University of Bonn, the Oxford of Germany in respect to the high rank of some of its students, and standing in the very first place in point of intrinsic efficiency. The tutor Florschütz still accompanied the young men; and they benefited by the prelections of such men as Fichte, Perthes, and Augustus Schlegel. Prince Albert studied classics, mathematics, mental philosophy, political economy, history, and statistical science. In the last subject he had been well grounded at Brussels by the distinguished M. Quetelet, who formed the highest opinion of his pupil’s powers and assiduity. He had, besides, private tutors for music and drawing, in both of which arts he was already well advanced. In the second stage of his curriculum his studies were specially devoted to jurisprudence and civil history. While at Bonn he displayed at once a talent for poetry and a benevolent heart, by the publication for the benefit of the poor of a collection of songs, which his brother set to meritorious musical accompaniments. He visited only among his princely fellow-students, and at the houses of the professors. His brother and he, though they occasionally gave courtly entertainments to[Pg 58] their friends, lived in private a temperate and frugal life. He assiduously sought out the society of savans and men of letters, especially loving to associate with Professors Welcker and Schlegel. The latter, though he detested the ordinary run of “princelings,” was quite charmed by Albert, of whom he thought and spoke most highly. The Prince kept only three academical terms, and finally left the University, in September, 1838, leaving golden opinions everywhere behind him. Not the least hearty of his eulogists in after years was Peter Stamm, an hotel-keeper, who acted as gamekeeper to him on his shooting excursions, and who for years after pointed to English visitors the portrait of Prince Albert in his sitting-room, his eyes the while brimming over with glad tears. The University, after his marriage, conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, and in the diploma pointed reference was made to his “summæ fortunæ magnitudinem ac gravitatem, summâ comitate, amabilique morum suavitate et humanitate.”
The winter of 1838-9 was passed by the Prince in a tour through Switzerland and Italy. After pursuing his journey as far as Naples, and omitting no locality of interest on the way, he came home by way of Vienna, and returned to the Castle of Ehrenberg in the summer of 1839. It has been stated that he found, on the wall of his room, a miniature of Queen Victoria, by Chalon, which she had sent to him as a gift in his absence; but we have not discovered any very reliable authority for the anecdote. In August, having completed his twentieth year, he was formally declared of age. He inherited from his mother landed estates amounting to £2,400 yearly value. These lands, we have reason to[Pg 59] believe, he transferred to his brother upon the formal announcement of his engagement to Queen Victoria, subject only to pensions and allowances to certain persons who had belonged to his modest household.
On the 8th of December, 1839, his betrothal was formally and publicly announced at Coburg. In the morning the Ducal family, with the Court officials, attended Divine service in the chapel of the Castle; in the afternoon, in the presence of the same dignitaries, with the deputies of the Duchies of Coburg and Gotha, the Chief Minister formally read the announcement of the betrothal; the while the booming of cannon from the fortress announced the tidings to the people of the town and the neighbouring country. About three hundred persons in all were present at the ceremony within the Castle, including bearers of congratulatory addresses, not only from the two duchies, but from Austria, Prussia, Hesse, Saxony, and other German states. From the report of an English gentleman of high social position, who was present on this important occasion, we extract, in conclusion, these fuller details:—
When the Minister (Baron de Carlowitz) had read the proclamation, the Duke embraced his son, and the Duchess next imprinted a kiss upon his forehead, while in every eye might be read the heartfelt wish that all the parents’ fondest, proudest hopes might be fully realised. More than one hundred and sixty persons partook of the hospitalities of the Duke’s table, in the “Riesen Saal,” or “Giant’s Hall,” and a more sumptuous or splendid entertainment could not be imagined. The loud and cordial cheers which the health of England’s Queen called forth, and which burst out with an enthusiasm which all the forms of etiquette and courtly ceremony could not restrain, were almost too affecting; and when the band struck up “God save the Queen,” the tears of joy flowed freely. I must not omit to mention a circumstance characteristic of the Prince. By his order, the people were admitted into[Pg 60] the “Riesen Saal,” to see the assembled company. Peasants from the hills, old and young, walked about without the smallest restraint, to their evident enjoyment; and their hearty exclamations—the blessings they invoked on their beloved Prince and his august parents—were a more eloquent and stirring panegyric than volumes could express. To describe the universal attachment of all classes to the Prince were impossible. I have never heard other than the most enthusiastic praise—not one dissenting voice from one end of Thuringia to the other. If I have remarked the personal beauty of the Prince, the general reply has been, “Ah! yes, he is certainly handsome, but so good; he is truly a most amiable prince, as good as he is handsome.” Persons attached to his suite, and the older members of the Court, cannot speak of him without tears, and are quite distressed at the thought of his leaving his native land.... On the 28th of December the Prince, accompanied by his father, quitted his paternal residence for a short sojourn at Gotha; and as he bade a last adieu to the stately castle of Ehrenberg, the abode of his fathers, and the happy scene of his infancy, the tenderest emotions of his nature for a moment almost overwhelmed him. A few days prior to his departure, a ball was given him by the nobles, at which he was received by twelve young ladies, attired in white, and wearing fresh-gathered roses; the Philosophic Society gave him a serenade, and all classes joined in affectionate expression of sympathy in their young Prince’s feelings on this momentous occasion.
Lord Viscount Torrington and Colonel the Honourable Charles Grey, who were charged with the two-fold mission of investing the Prince with the insignia of the Order of the Garter, and escorting him and his suite to England, arrived at Gotha early in January, 1840, and the investiture took place on the 24th, with imposing ceremony. The jewels, which were of diamonds and of rare workmanship, were a present from the Queen. After a series of hospitable festivities in honour of the English envoys, Prince Albert set out for England on the 28th of the month.
THE PRINCESS VICTORIA BECOMES QUEEN REGNANT.
First Meeting of the Princess Victoria and Prince Albert—Coming of Age—Festivities on the Occasion—Death of William IV., and Accession of Victoria—The Queen holds her First Privy Council—Her Address—Proclamation as Queen at St. James’s Palace—Beautiful Traits of Character displayed by the Queen—Stirring and Gorgeous Scene—Delight of the People at the Queen’s Accession.
The marriage of Prince Albert with the Princess Victoria was desired, if not planned, by certain of their common relatives, especially the Duchess Dowager of Coburg and her son Prince Leopold, almost from the period when the cousins were in their cradles. After his betrothal, the Prince himself told the Queen that his mother, who died in 1831, wished earnestly that he should marry her. He first saw his future wife in the month of May, 1836, when he and his brother came to England on a visit to their aunt. He greatly enjoyed this visit to England, and the youthful guests were treated by the authorities and the inhabitants of the metropolis with the utmost courtesy and attention. They were sumptuously entertained at Windsor by the King and Queen Adelaide, and were conducted to all the great sights of the town by their aunt and cousin.
On the 24th of May, 1837, the Princess Victoria having attained her eighteenth year, was declared legally of age, according to the provisions of a recent Act of[Pg 62] Parliament. Amongst the first to congratulate her on the happy event was Prince Albert. This happy day was kept as a general holiday, and the night made brilliant by an illumination. It was celebrated with demonstrations of excessive joy at Kensington. At six o’clock in the morning the union-jack was hoisted on the steeple of the old church, as also on the green sward opposite the Palace. That edifice was surmounted by a splendid flag of pure white silk, on which was inscribed, in letters of ethereal blue, the single word “Victoria.” From the houses of the principal inhabitants in the High Street waved a profusion of other flags. The gates of the Gardens were thrown open at six o’clock for the admission of the public; and it having got wind the previous evening that a serenade would be performed at seven o’clock, at which hour Victoria first drew breath eighteen years before, the portion of the Gardens next the Palace was thronged by an assemblage of well-dressed persons, including several ladies. Congratulatory addresses and innumerable presents—amongst the latter, a splendid piano from the King—poured in from all quarters. At night a magnificent ball in honour of the occasion was given at St. James’s Palace.
During these festivities, although it was known that the King’s health was seriously enfeebled, no one imagined that within a month from the attainment of her majority the young Princess would become Queen of England. The anniversary of Waterloo was always a great day with King William. The Duke of Wellington, in consideration of the declining state of the King’s health, proposed not to have the usual banquet at Apsley[Pg 63] House; but, the day before, William, sent a message desiring that the banquet should take place, and wishing the host and guests a pleasant day. By two o’clock on the morning of the 20th he was no more.
Shortly after the demise of the Sovereign, three carriages, conveying the Primate, the Earl of Albemarle and Sir Henry Halford, the Royal physician, started from Windsor, and arrived at Kensington Palace shortly before five o’clock. The doors were thrown open before them, and in the early morning sunshine stood the Queen of England and her mother, prepared for the news, and ready to receive them. At nine o’clock, Lord Melbourne, the Premier, arrived at the Palace, and had an interview of half an hour with his new mistress. Before noon came the Lord Mayor and other members of the Corporation. Next to appear was the Duke of Cumberland. Miss Martineau thus describes the quick succession of incidents which now crowded one upon the other with rapid haste:—
On the meeting of the princes, peers, and other councillors, they signed the oath of allegiance; and the first name on the list was that of Ernest, King of Hanover. The Queen caused them all to be sworn in Members of the Council, and then addressed them; after which they issued orders for the Proclamation of Her Majesty. If the millions who longed to know how the young Sovereign looked and felt could have heard her first address, it would have gone far to satisfy them. The address was, of course, prepared for her; but the manner and voice were her own, and they told much. Her manner was composed, modest, and dignified; her voice firm and sweet; her reading, as usual, beautiful. She took the necessary oaths, and received the eager homage of the thronging nobility without agitation or any awkwardness. The declaration contained an affectionate reference to the deceased King; an assertion of her attachment to the constitution of the country, and of her intention to rule in accordance with it; a grateful allusion to her mother’s educational care of her; an avowal[Pg 64] that, under circumstances of such eminent responsibility as hers, she relied for support and guidance in Divine Providence, and a pledge that her life should be devoted to the happiness of her people. The Ministers returned into her hands, and received again, the seals of their respective offices; the stamps in official use were ordered to be altered, as also the prayers of the Church which related to the Royal Family; the Proclamation was prepared and signed by the Privy Councillors, and the Queen appointed the next day, Wednesday, for the ceremony. The first use of the Great Seal, under the new reign, was to authenticate the official Proclamation, which was gazetted the same evening. During the whole morning, carriages were driving up rapidly, bringing visitors eager to offer their homage. What a day of whirl and fatigue for one in a position so lonely, at such tender years. How welcome must have been the night, and the quiet of her pillow, whatever might be the thoughts that rested upon it. The next morning she appeared “extremely pale and fatigued,” and no wonder, for she had passed through a day which could never be paralleled.
The following is the text of her Majesty’s speech delivered on this occasion to the Privy Council:—
The severe and afflicting loss which the nation has sustained by the death of His Majesty, my beloved uncle, has devolved upon me the duty of administering the Government of this empire. This awful responsibility is imposed upon me so suddenly, and at so early a period, that I should feel myself utterly oppressed by the burden, were I not sustained by the hope that Divine Providence, which has called me to this work, will give me strength for the performance of it, and that I shall find, in the purity of my intentions, and in my zeal for the public welfare, that support and those resources which usually belong to a more mature age and longer experience. I place my firm reliance upon the wisdom of Parliament, and upon the loyalty and affection of my people. I esteem it also a peculiar advantage that I succeed to a sovereign whose constant regard for the rights and liberties of his subjects, and whose desire to promote the amelioration of the laws and institutions of the country, have rendered his name the object of general attachment and veneration. Educated in England, under the tender and affectionate care of a most affectionate mother, I have learned from my infancy to respect and love the constitution of my native country. It will be my unceasing study to maintain the [Pg 65]reformed religion as by law established, securing, at the same time, to all the full enjoyment of religious liberty; and I shall steadily protect the rights, and promote to the utmost of my power the happiness and welfare of all classes of my subjects.
The next day, the 21st of June, the Queen was publicly proclaimed, under the title of Alexandrina Victoria I.; but since that day she has disused the Russian name bestowed upon her by her Muscovite godfather, preferring to retain simply “Victoria.” The Queen arrived at the Palace at ten o’clock, where she was received by most of the members of the Royal Family, the Officers of the Household, and Ministers of State. Long before ten all the avenues to the Palace were crowded, every balcony, window, and housetop being crammed with the better class of spectators. The space in the quadrangle in front of the window where Her Majesty was to appear, was crowded with ladies and gentlemen, and even the parapets above were filled with people.
At ten o’clock the guns in the Park fired a salute, and immediately after the Queen made her appearance at the window of the tapestried ante-room adjoining the audience chamber, and was received with deafening cheers—cheers all the more hearty that her appearance was a surprise, for few had known that she was to be there present. She was dressed in deep mourning, with a white tippet, white cuffs, and a border of white lace under a small black bonnet, which was placed far back on her head, exhibiting her light brown hair simply parted in front. She viewed the proceedings with intense interest, standing during the whole rehearsal of the Proclamation; and although she looked pale and[Pg 66] fatigued, she returned the repeated rounds of cheers with great grace and dignity. All were touched to very tenderness of soul by the pale face, wet with tears, calm and simply grave, the gravity being enhanced by the plain black dress and bands of brown hair, giving an aspect of Quaker-like neatness. On either side stood Lords Melbourne and Lansdowne, in their state dresses and blue ribbons, and close to her was her mother, who was dressed similarly to the Queen.
In the court-yard were Garter King-at-Arms, with Heralds and Pursuivants in their robes of office, and eight Officers-of-Arms on horseback, bearing massive silver maces; Sergeants-at-Arms, with their maces and collars; the Sergeant-Trumpeter, with his mace and collar; the trumpets, drum-major and drums, and Knights Marshal and men. On Her Majesty showing herself at the Presence Chamber window, Garter Principal King-at-Arms, having taken his station in the court-yard under the window, accompanied by the Duke of Norfolk as Earl Marshal of England, read the Proclamation, containing the formal and official announcement of the demise of King William IV., and of the consequent accession of Queen Alexandrina Victoria to the rule of these realms. The Proclamation was brief, and to the point:—
Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to call to His mercy our late Sovereign Lord, King William IV., of blessed memory, by whose decease the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria, we therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these of his late Majesty’s Privy Council, with numbers of other principal gentlemen of quality, the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and citizens of London, do now [Pg 67]hereby with one voice and consent of tongue, proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria is now, by the death of our late Sovereign William IV., of happy memory, become our only lawful and rightful Liege Lady, Alexandrina Victoria I., Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, ... to whom we acknowledge all faith and constant obedience, with all humble and hearty affection, beseeching God, by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess Alexandrina Victoria with long and happy years to reign. God Save the Queen.
At the termination of this Proclamation, the band struck up the National Anthem, and a signal was given for the Park and Tower guns to fire, in order to announce the fact of the Proclamation being made. Amid the booming of the guns, the air was rent with cheers by those within the area, which were taken up by the tens of thousands outside. The enthusiasm of the comparative few who could see Victoria rose to rapture when, the moment she was proclaimed Queen, she turned round, threw her arms round her mother’s neck, and wept without restraint. And when her loved uncle, the Duke of Sussex, presented himself, the day before, to take the oath of allegiance, and was about to kneel in her presence to kiss her hand, she gracefully prevented him, kissed his cheek affectionately, and said, “Do not kneel, my uncle, for I am still Victoria, your niece.”
The feelings of gratification with which the people welcomed the accession of Victoria cannot be depicted in terms too strong. To most, the course of years seemed very short during which they had been eagerly watching the growth and training of the Princess. It seemed—at least, to all but the young—but a matter of yesterday that the newspapers had informed them of the birth of the Royal babe; of the Duke of[Pg 68] Kent’s illness: how he had come home from a walk with wet boots, and, “beguiled by the smiles of his infant Princess,” had played with her, instead of changing his clothes, and thus caught the cold of which he died. And here she was now, a woman, and the sovereign ruler of a hundred million of souls. All they had heard of her was favourable. Sinister rumours and alarms there had been, but they had been dissipated and dispersed like the morning’s mist before the rising god of day. Her morals were pure, her conduct spotless, and in all arts and accomplishments she had been carefully trained. From her earliest days she had been abroad in all weathers; having been often seen, when it was stormy, on a windy common, with a warm cloak and thick boots. She kept early hours, and was so exactly and proverbially punctual, that it was mentioned as a marvel that she once had to apologise for being half a minute late in an appointment. She had never been known to exceed her pocket-money in her personal expenditure, or to be sixpence in debt—an extraordinary novelty in a descendant of George III.
In the first year of her reign the people were delighted to find that she had paid her father’s debts, including considerable sums advanced by his warm friends, Lords Fitzwilliam and Dundas. Next she paid her mother’s debts—debts unavoidably contracted, as she knew and acknowledged, on her account. She provided with royal munificence for the whole family of the late sovereign, and honoured them with courtesies and kindnesses, which almost obliterated the pain arising from their dubious position. Yet she lived within her income, and paid as she purchased.
THE MAIDEN QUEEN.
Removal to Buckingham Palace—First Levée—Dissolves Parliament—Beauty of her Elocution—Splendid Reception by the City of London—Settlement of the Queen’s Income—Her Daily Life—Her admirable Knowledge of, and Devotion to, the Business of the State—Reverence for the Lord’s Day.
Greatly to the regret of the inhabitants of Kensington, the Queen, with her mother, took her final departure from the abode where she was born, and in which she had spent so many happy days, and proceeded to Buckingham Palace, on July 13th. The Queen, on this occasion, looked pale, and her countenance had a very natural, and easily accounted for, aspect of deep regret. Immediately afterwards she held a Court Levée. It was, of course, thronged by her loyal subjects who had the privilege of entrée; but there was no appearance of fatigue in her face, voice, or manner, and the day passed off with spirit and brilliancy. She seemed to have acquired (so say the court chroniclers of the period), if possible, increased grace and dignity. She wore a rich lama dress, her head glittered with diamonds, and her breast was covered with the insignia of the Garter and other orders. A pair of embroidered velvet slippers covered feet which, resting on the cushion, were observed and admired by all as “exquisitely small.”
[Pg 70]On the 17th of July she went in state to the House of Lords to dissolve the Parliament, in accordance with constitutional usage and enactment on the demise of the Crown. After thanking both Houses for their expressions of condolence on the death of her uncle, and for the zeal and assiduity with which they had discharged their duties, especially for their efforts to mitigate the severity of the penal code, she concluded by saying:—
I ascend the throne with a deep sense of the responsibility which is imposed upon me; but I am supported by the consciousness of my own right intentions, and by my dependence upon the protection of Almighty God. It will be my care to strengthen our institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, by discreet improvement wherever improvement is required, and to do all in my power to compose and allay animosity and discord. Acting upon these principles, I shall, upon all occasions, look with confidence to the wisdom of Parliament and the affections of my people, which form the true support of the dignity of the Crown, and ensure the stability of the Constitution.
The admirable manner in which the speech was read—her singularly musical voice being heard, without the slightest appearance of effort, in every corner of the House of Lords—was the subject of the admiration of all who heard it. It was, indeed, known that she was a fine singer, and frequently entertained her mother’s guests by singing to them, her mother accompanying her on the piano; nevertheless, the lucidity of her tones, and the entire absence of any discomposure to disturb them, surprised every one, and no one more so than her mother.
The Queen went in great state to the City on Lord Mayor’s Day, November 9. This royal entry was one of the greatest sights which had ever been beheld in the City. The Queen, looking remarkably well, magnificently [Pg 71]attired in pink satin shot with silver, was greeted with deafening cheers from a crowd far denser than any she had ever seen, along her whole route from Marlborough House (her temporary residence until Buckingham Palace was completed for her occupation) to the Guildhall. The houses along the thoroughfares by which the cavalcade passed were hung with bright-coloured cloths, with green boughs, and with what flowers the earth could afford at the late season of the year. Flags and heraldic banners darkened the dim November light across the Strand, Fleet Street, and Cheapside; and every pedestal that could be improvised supported a bust of Queen Victoria. At Temple Bar the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, mounted on artillery horses from Woolwich, each of the steeds being held by the head by the soldier who was accustomed to bestride him, awaited their distinguished guest. The Lord Mayor, dismounting and taking the City Sword in his hand, delivered the keys, which were graciously returned, while more vociferous cheers than ever rent the air. On which, the Lord Mayor, re-mounting and holding the City Sword aloft, rode before Her Majesty through the City, the cortége of mounted Aldermen following her carriage. The open space before St. Paul’s was occupied by hustings, crowded by the Liverymen of the City Companies and the Christ’s Hospital boys. One of these, in conformity with an old usage, having presented an address to the Queen, and the whole of the boys having sung “God save the Queen,” the procession went on its way. At the Guildhall, which, with all its adjacent chambers, was sumptuously fitted up, a loyal address was read by the Recorder, and suitably acknowledged. After this came a sumptuous banquet,[Pg 72] from which Her Majesty retired, to see on her way back the whole line of the route brilliantly illuminated.
The first message which the Queen sent to Parliament when it re-assembled, was a truly characteristic one: it asked for a suitable provision for her royal mother. This provision was loyally made, and in the same short winter session her own civil list was settled. William IV. had enjoyed a civil list amounting to £510,000, while, from the accession of George III. to the death of his eldest son, it had been fixed at £1,030,000. Her Majesty’s civil list was fixed at £385,000 per annum, and her privy purse, being the only sum over which she had complete personal control, and from which her private charities had to be disbursed, was fixed at £60,000. Out of the £385,000 the calculation, based by order of Parliament upon the accounts of the late reign, was that £131,260 would go for salaries of the Household, from the Master of the Horse and Mistress of the Robes, down to the humblest scullion and stable-helper; and £172,500 in tradesmen’s bills.
During the early days of her maiden reign, the Queen rose at eight, occupied a remarkably short time in dressing, and then discharged such routine business as signing despatches until the breakfast hour, which was invariably a quarter before ten. At that hour, she without fail sent one of her attendants to invite the Duchess of Kent to breakfast. From the day of her ascending the throne, to remove the slightest ground for suspicion as to any undue influence, the strictest etiquette was preserved between mother and daughter; the former never approaching the latter unless specially summoned, and carefully abstaining from[Pg 73] conversing about the business of the State. Twelve o’clock was the time appointed for conferences with her Ministers. After the usual complimentary salutation, she at once proceeded to the business of the day. If a document were handed to her, she read it without comment, and no remark passed her own lips or those of the Ministers present, until its perusal was concluded. After retiring from the Council-room, the interval was passed until dinner in riding or walking. At dinner, the first Lord-in-waiting took the head of the table; opposite to him, the chief Equerry-in-waiting. Her Majesty’s chair was half way down on the right, the various guests being seated according to their ranks. Next to Her Majesty, on the right hand, was the nobleman of highest degree; next to him, the Duchess of Kent, and so on. On Her Majesty’s left, the same rule was observed, the Baroness Lehzen, who acted as Secretary to the Queen, being always near her. The Queen left the table early for the drawing-room, where her musical tastes were regaled almost invariably, and her own proficiency very frequently displayed.
The following incident, which was made public during the first year of the Queen’s reign, made a very pleasing impression upon the well-conditioned portion of the public. A certain noble Minister arrived at Windsor at a late hour on Saturday night. On being introduced, he said, “I have brought down for your Majesty’s inspection some documents of great importance; but, as I shall be obliged to trouble you to examine them in detail, I will not encroach on the time of your Majesty to-night, but will request your attention to-morrow morning.” “To-morrow morning?” repeated the Queen;[Pg 74] “to-morrow is Sunday, my lord.” “True, your Majesty, but business of the State will not admit of delay.” “I am aware of that,” replied the Queen, “and, as your lordship could not have arrived earlier at the Palace to-night, I will, if those papers are of such pressing importance, attend to their contents after church to-morrow morning.” So to church went the Queen and the Court, and to church went the noble lord; when, much to his surprise, the discourse was on the duties and obligations of the Christian Sabbath. “How did your lordship like the sermon?” asked the Queen. “Very much indeed, your Majesty,” replied the nobleman. “Well, then,” retorted Her Majesty, “I will not conceal from you that, last night, I sent the clergyman the text from which he preached. I hope we shall all be improved by the sermon.” The Sunday passed without a single word being said relative to the State papers, and at night, when Her Majesty was about to withdraw—“To-morrow morning, my lord, at any hour you please,” said the Queen, turning to the nobleman—“as early as seven, my lord, if you like, we will look into the papers.” The nobleman said that he could not think of intruding on Her Majesty at so early an hour; he thought nine o’clock would be quite soon enough. “No, no, my lord,” said the Queen; “as the papers are of importance, I wish them to be attended to very early. However, if you wish it to be nine, be it so.” And accordingly, the next morning at nine, Her Majesty was seated ready to receive the nobleman and his papers.
THE QUEEN CROWNED.
Novel Features in the Coronation—Its Cost—Large Amount of Money Circulated—Splendour of the Procession—Enormous Crowds—The Scene within the Abbey—Arrival of the Queen—The Regalia and Sacred Vessels—Costume of the Queen—Astonishment of the Turkish Ambassador at the Scene—The Coronation Ceremony—The Queen’s Oath—The Anointing—The Crown placed on her Head—The Homage—An Aged Peer—The Queen’s Crown—The Illuminations and general Festivities—Fair in Hyde Park—The Duke of Wellington and Marshal Soult at the Guildhall.
The great event of the year 1838 was the Coronation, which took place on the 28th of June. It was conducted after the abridged model of that of the Queen’s immediate predecessor. The Coronation of George IV. had cost £243,000; that of William IV., £50,000. The charges on the occasion of the crowning of Queen Victoria amounted to about £70,000. This slight excess over the cost of the last Sovereign’s solemn investiture with regal power was explained by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as having been in no sense occasioned by any part of the ceremonial peculiarly connected with the Sovereign, but it had been incurred with a view of enabling the great mass of the people to participate in this national festivity. The great novelty on the occasion was the omission of the walking procession of all the estates of the realm, and the banquet in Westminster Hall, with the feudal services attendant thereon. Many of the upper classes[Pg 76] grumbled not a little at these omissions; but the general public were more than proportionately gratified. For in lieu of the disused ceremonies, a public procession through the streets was substituted. This enabled all to witness the splendid pageant, and induced a very large private expenditure and circulation of money. It was estimated that no less than £200,000 were paid for the use of windows and other positions of vantage in the line of the procession. The price of single seats ranged from five shillings to ten guineas; and the Duke of Buckingham, in his “Courts and Cabinets of William IV. and Victoria,” alleges that single windows in Pall Mall and St. James’s Street produced no less than £200. Persons of distinction behaved with a becoming liberality and splendour. Marshal Soult, the old opponent of Wellington, who specially represented on the occasion the Court of the Tuileries, and who was received by the crowds with great enthusiasm, appeared in a splendid state carriage that had been used by the Prince of Condé. The Russian Ambassador purchased for £1,600 a similar chariot, which had already done the same duty for the Duke of Devonshire, at St. Petersburg, on a like occasion. Another diplomat gave £250 for the loan for the day of a vehicle befitting his rank; while many more had to content themselves with carriages whose normal function it was to minister to the state of the civic magnates, and which were hastily repainted and decorated for the auspicious occasion.
The day was one of the brightest on which the Queen, with her proverbial good fortune in this respect, has ever appeared amongst her subjects. At early morn, the first rays of the blazing Midsummer sun slanted down through[Pg 77] the windows of Westminster Abbey upon the jewels of whole rows of peeresses, and the illuminations which turned night into day remained in full magnificence until the dawn of the succeeding morning. At dawn, a salvo of artillery from the Tower caused all the population to be astir, and the population was on this day increased by the importation of four hundred thousand visitors. The behaviour of the enormous multitude which first lined the streets and then spread itself over the town, was beyond all praise. Courtesy and mutual forbearance were conspicuous, and no accident or offence occurred to mar the pleasing impressions of the ceremonial.
The route of the procession was as follows:—From Buckingham Palace, up Constitution Hill, along Piccadilly, St. James’s Street, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, Whitehall, and Parliament Street, to the great west door of Westminster Abbey. The most novel feature of the procession was the carriages of the Foreign Ambassadors, to which we have already alluded, with their jägers in gorgeous or grotesque uniforms. These came in the order in which they had arrived on their special missions to this country; the carriages of the regular resident Ambassadors came in their ordinary order of precedence. Next followed the members of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Kent preceding the carriages of the surviving sons of George III. To the Queen’s Barge Master, with forty-eight watermen, succeeded twelve of the Royal carriages, containing the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Household. Next came mounted, three and three, the high functionaries of the Army. And after Royal huntsmen, yeomen, prickers, marshalmen, foresters, and a host of other minor functionaries—the whole of the[Pg 78] mounted Household Troops being here and there interspersed at intervals in the cavalcade—came the grand state coach, containing Her Majesty the Queen, with the Duchess of Sutherland, Mistress of the Robes. On either side of the carriage rode Lord Combermere, Gold Stick in Waiting, and the Earl of Ilchester, Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. The Earl of Albemarle, as Master of the Horse, and the Duke of Buccleuch, as Captain-General of the Royal Scottish Archers, rode behind. A squadron of Life Guards brought up the rear.
Meanwhile, within the Abbey, a painful sleepiness had oppressed those who had sat so many hours in cramped positions; many of them in galleries perched up high under the roofs of the aisles. Suddenly, a burst of music, rushing among the arches and ringing from the roof, aroused and entranced all, who peered eagerly down upon the procession of small figures; the central one looking the slightest and most fragile of all. At half-past eleven, the Queen reached the door of the Abbey, where she was received by the great officers of State, the noblemen bearing the Regalia, and the bishops carrying Patina, Chalice, and Bible. Having retired to her Robing-room, the procession formed and proceeded towards the altar, which was laden with magnificent gold plate, and beside which stood St. Edward’s Chair. Besides the elements which are common to all great English regal processions, and which it is, therefore, not requisite to recapitulate, the Regalia, which only appear on such occasions, were thus distributed:—St. Edward’s Staff, the Golden Spurs, the Sceptre with the Cross, the Curtana, and two Swords of Investiture, were borne respectively by the Duke of Roxburgh, Lord Byron, Duke of [Pg 79]Cleveland, Duke of Devonshire, Marquis of Westminster, and Duke of Sutherland. The coronets of the princes of the blood were borne by noblemen; their trains by knights or peers’ sons. Next came the Earl Marshal, Duke of Norfolk, with his staff, Lord Melbourne with the Sword of State, and the Duke of Wellington, with his staff, as Lord High Constable; the Dukes of Richmond, Hamilton, and Somerset bore the Sceptre and Dove, St. Edward’s Crown, and the Orb; the Bishops of Bangor, Winchester, and London carried the Patina, Chalice, and Bible. The Queen, who was supported on one side by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, on the other by the Bishop of Durham, wore a royal robe of crimson velvet, furred with ermine and broidered with gold lace. She wore the collars of her orders, and on her head a circlet of gold. Eight peers’ daughters bore her train, most, if not all of them, old friends of her happy childish tours to the mansions of the aristocracy, and distinguished by their personal attractions. About fifty ladies of rank, occupying various positions in the household, succeeded, and the procession was concluded by Officers of State and Yeomen of the Guard.
The chief and most picturesque incidents in the Coronation ceremony must be briefly narrated. The Queen looked extremely well, and “had a very animated countenance;” but perhaps the splendid attire of some of the foreign ambassadors attracted more attention than even the Sovereign to whose court they were accredited. The costume of the Prince Esterhazy was by far the most gorgeous; his dress, even to his boot-heels, sparkled with diamonds. The Turkish Ambassador seemed specially bewildered at the general splendour of the scene: for[Pg 80] some moments he stopped in astonishment, and had to be courteously admonished to move to his allotted place.
As the Queen advanced slowly to the centre of the choir, she was received with hearty plaudits, and the musicians sang the anthem, “I was glad.” At its close, the boys of Westminster School, privileged of old to occupy a special gallery, chanted “Vivat Victoria Regina.” On this the Queen moved to a chair, midway between the Chair of Homage and the altar; and there, after a few moments’ private devotion, kneeling on a fald-stool, she sat down, and the ceremony proper began. First came the “recognition.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by some half-dozen of the greatest civil dignitaries, advanced and said, “Sirs, I here present unto you Queen Victoria, the undoubted Queen of this realm; wherefore, all you who have come this day to do your homage, are you willing to do the same?” On this, all Her Majesty’s subjects present shouted, “God Save Queen Victoria!” the Archbishop turning in succession to the north, south, and west sides of the Abbey, and the Queen doing the same. The bishops who bore them, then placed the Patina, Chalice, and Bible on the altar; the Queen, kneeling, made her first offering, a pall, or altar-cloth, of gold. The Archbishop having offered a prayer, the Regalia were laid on the altar; the Litany and Communion services were read, and a brief sermon preached, by various prelates. The preacher was the Bishop of London, and his text was from the Second Book of Chronicles, chapter xxxiv., verse 31—“And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and[Pg 81] to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.”
After the sermon, the Queen swore—the Archbishop of Canterbury putting the oath—that she would maintain the law and the established religion. Then Her Majesty—the Sword of State being carried before her—went to the altar, and laying her right hand upon the Gospel, said, kneeling, “The things which I have here-before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me, God!” Having kissed the book, and signed a transcript of the oath presented to her by the Archbishop, she knelt upon her fald-stool, while the choir sang, “Veni, Creator, Dominus.”
Now, sitting in King Edward’s Chair, four Knights of the Garter holding the while over her head a canopy of cloth of gold, her head and hands were anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury; after which he said his prayer, or blessing, over her. In quick succession followed the delivery of the Spurs, Sword of State, &c. The Dean of Westminster, having taken the crown from the altar, handed it to the Archbishop, who reverently placed it on the Queen’s head. This was no sooner done, than there arose from every part of the edifice a tremendous shout—“God save the Queen!” accompanied with lusty cheers and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs. At the same moment, the Peers and Peeresses put on their coronets, the Bishops their caps, and the Kings of Arms their crowns; the trumpets sounded, the drums were beat, and volleys fired from the Tower and Park guns. After the Benediction and Te Deum, the[Pg 82] Queen was “enthroned,” or “lifted,” as the formulary has it, from the chair in which she had first sat into the Chair of Homage, where she delivered the sceptre, &c., to noblemen, while she received fealty of her more distinguished subjects. The Archbishop first knelt and did homage for himself and all the spiritual peers; next came the Princes of the blood, who merely touched the crown, kissed her left cheek, swore the oath of homage, and retired without kneeling; then the Peers in succession came—seventeen dukes, twenty-two marquises, ninety-four earls, twenty viscounts, and ninety-two barons. Each Peer knelt bareheaded, and kissed Her Majesty’s hand. Lord Rolle, who was upwards of eighty, stumbled and fell in going up the steps; the Queen at once stepped forward, and held out her hand to assist him. While the Peers were doing homage, the Earl of Surrey, Treasurer of the Household, threw silver coronation medals about the choir and lower galleries; and when the homage was completed the Members of the House of Commons, who occupied a special gallery, indicated their loyalty by giving nine lusty cheers. It was almost a quarter to four when the procession came back along the nave. The return cavalcade along the streets was even more attractive than that of the morning, for the royal and noble personages now wore their coronets, and the Queen her crown. The crown was especially admired. That which had been made for George IV. weighed upwards of seven pounds, and as it was considered too heavy for the Queen, a new one was constructed by Messrs. Rundell and Bridge, of less than half the weight. It was formed of hoops of silver, covered with precious stones, over a cap of rich[Pg 83] blue velvet, surmounted with a ball enriched by diamonds. Amongst its other gems was a large heart-shaped ruby, which had been worn by the Black Prince; this was set in front.
In the evening the Queen entertained a hundred guests to dinner at Buckingham Palace, and at a late hour witnessed from the roof the fireworks in the Green Park. At Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington gave a ball, to which two thousand guests were invited. All the Cabinet Ministers gave state dinners. A fair was held in Hyde Park on the day of the coronation—Thursday—and until the end of the week. The area allotted comprised nearly one-third of the Park. On Friday, the Queen visited the fair, which was studded with theatres, refreshment booths, and stalls for the sale of fancy articles. The illuminations and fireworks gave great satisfaction, as did the fact that the whole of the theatres were opened gratuitously at the Queen’s express desire. Among other festivities, at home and abroad, which succeeded and were held in honour of the coronation of Victoria, may be mentioned a grand review by Her Majesty in Hyde Park; a magnificent banquet at the Guildhall, at which the old Waterloo antagonists, Wellington and Soult, were toasted in combination; the feasting of 13,000 persons on one spot at Cambridge; the laying of the first stone of the St. George’s Hall, at Liverpool, and at Leghorn of an English Protestant Church; and a great public dinner, in Paris, presided over by Sir Sidney Smith, the hero of St. Jean d’Acre.
THE BEDCHAMBER PLOT.
Resignation of Lord Melbourne’s Cabinet—Sir Robert Peel sent for—Fails to Form a Cabinet—His Explanation—The Queen Refuses to Dismiss her Ladies of the Bedchamber—Supported by her late Ministers—Sir Robert Peel’s Objections—The Queen will not give way—The Whigs recalled to Power—Public Opinion on the Dispute—The Whig Ministers blamed, but the Queen exculpated.
In April, 1839, Lord Melbourne’s administration, which had been rapidly losing its once great popularity, obtained only the small and nominal majority of five, in a very important matter connected with the government of Jamaica. The Ministers accordingly tendered their resignations early in May, and Her Majesty was graciously pleased to accept them. As usual under such circumstances, the Parliament was prorogued for a few days. After the lapse of a week, the Houses re-assembled, and Lord John Russell, who had been the Whig leader of the House, immediately rose and said that since he had last addressed them, Sir Robert Peel had received authority from Her Majesty to form a new Administration, and that the attempt of the Right Honourable Baronet having failed, Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to permit that gentleman to state the circumstances which had led to that failure.
On her accession, the Queen had left the selection of[Pg 85] the Ladies of the Household entirely to her uncle Sussex, and Lord Melbourne—the one of whom had been a Whig all his life, and the other, though but a comparatively recent convert, was the head of the Whig party. They had somewhat indiscreetly selected at least all the important female members of the Household, those to whom a young girl would be likely to look up confidingly for information and guidance, from the ranks of the Whig aristocracy. On Tuesday, the 29th of May, the resignations of the Melbourne Cabinet were announced to Parliament. The next day, at two o’clock, in answer to her summons, Sir Robert Peel waited upon the Queen. She had first sent for the Duke of Wellington, but he recommended his former lieutenant and future leader as premier. The Queen, with characteristic truthfulness, which was none the less admirable that it was too girlishly outspoken to be judicious, or at all in accordance with the spirit of the constitution, at once greeted Sir Robert with an avowal that she was much grieved to part with her late Ministers, whose conduct she entirely approved. This was rather an awkward beginning. Nevertheless, he proceeded with the formation of his Cabinet, and the next day submitted a list of names to the Queen, including the Duke of Wellington, Lords Lyndhurst, Aberdeen, Ellenborough, Stanley, Sir James Graham, and Mr. Goulburn. As to the Household, he had hardly thought about it, and indeed he said he did not know who constituted the female part of it. He took the Red Book to learn who they were, and was at once struck with the completeness of the arrangements for surrounding the Queen with the nearest[Pg 86] relations of the Whig Ministers. For example, he afterwards put this point most strongly to the House:—
Sir, let me take that particular question on which my difficulty would arise. Who can conceal from himself that my difficulties were not Canada; that my difficulties were not Jamaica; that my difficulties were Ireland? (ironical cheers). I admit it freely, and thank you for the confirmation of my argument which these cheers afford. And what is the fact? I, undertaking to be a Minister of the Crown, and wishing to carry on public affairs through the intervention of the present House of Commons, in order that I might exempt the country from the agitation, and, possibly, the peril of a dissolution—I, upon that very question in a minority of upwards of twenty members. A majority of twenty-two had decided in favour of the policy of the Irish Government [that is, of the Irish policy of Lord Melbourne]. The chief members of the Irish Government, whose policy was so approved of, were the Marquis of Normanby, and the noble lord opposite, the member for Yorkshire [Lord Morpeth, afterwards the Earl of Carlisle]. By whom are the chief offices in the Household at this moment held? By the sister of Lord Morpeth [the Duchess of Sutherland], and the wife of the Marquis of Normanby. But the question is—Would it be considered by the public that a Minister had the confidence of the Crown, when the relatives of his immediate political opponents held the highest offices about the person of the Sovereign? My impression decidedly was that I should not appear to the country to be in possession of that confidence; and that impression I could not overcome; and upon that impression I resolved to act. Who were my political opponents? Why, of the two I have named, one, the Marquis of Normanby, was publicly stated to be a candidate for the very same office which it was proposed I should fill—namely, the office of Prime Minister. The other noble lord has been designated as the leader of this House; and I know not why his talents might not justify his appointment, in case of the retirement of his predecessor. Is it possible—I ask you to go back to other times; take Pitt, or Fox, or any other Minister of this proud country, and answer for yourselves this question—is it fitting that one man shall be the Minister, responsible for the most arduous charge that can fall to the lot of man, and that the wife of the other—that other his most formidable political enemy—shall, with his express consent, hold office in immediate attendance on the [Pg 87]Sovereign? Oh no! I felt it was impossible—I could not consent to this. Yes, feelings more powerful than reasoning on those precedents told me that it was not for my own honour or the public interests that I should consent to be Minister of England. The public interests may suffer nothing by my abandonment of that high trust; the public interests may suffer nothing by my eternal exclusion from power; but the public interests would suffer, and I should be abandoning my duty to myself, my country, and, above all, to the Queen my sovereign, if I were to consent to hold power on conditions which I felt to be—which I had the strongest conviction were—incompatible with the authority and with the duty of a Prime Minister.
Sir Robert had informed Her Majesty that he did not propose any change in the offices in question below the grade of Ladies of the Bedchamber. He took it for granted that the ladies who held higher offices would save him any appearance of want of courtesy by voluntarily resigning. Ere this, however, had been stated, the Queen having expressed a desire that her own and her mother’s old friend, Lord Liverpool (who, it may be remarked, was of the Tory party), should be appointed to some office, Sir Robert at once requested the Queen’s permission to offer him the office of Lord Steward, or any other which he might select. The only other names which he submitted to her were those of Lords Ashley (now Shaftesbury), and Sydney. So far all was well. But when he went on to say that he was most ready to apply a similar principle to, and consult Her Majesty’s wishes in, the selection of her ladies, the Queen remarked that she should reserve all these appointments, and indeed did not intend to make any present change. In a subsequent interview with the Duke of Wellington, the Queen reiterated the same desire and intention. Meanwhile, after her interviews[Pg 88] with Peel and Wellington, Her Majesty sent for Lord John Russell, and put the direct question to him, Was she right in her determination? He at once replied that she was right; on which she naïvely asked him to support her now, as she had supported the Cabinet of which he had been a member. Lord John having consulted Lord Melbourne, they called their ex-colleagues together, and advised the Queen to send the following note to Sir Robert Peel, which she did:—
Buckingham Palace, May 10, 1839.
The Queen, having considered the proposal made to her yesterday by Sir Robert Peel, to remove the Ladies of her Bedchamber, cannot consent to adopt a course which she conceives to be contrary to usage and repugnant to her feelings.
On receipt of this, Sir Robert Peel, acting in perfect concert with the Duke of Wellington, communicated with Her Majesty in a remarkably courteous letter, of which this was the concluding and decisive paragraph:—
Having had the opportunity, through your Majesty’s gracious consideration, of reflecting upon this point, he humbly submits to your Majesty that he is reluctantly compelled, by a sense of public duty and of the interest of your Majesty’s service, to adhere to the opinion which he ventured to express to your Majesty. He trusts he may be permitted, at the same time, to express to your Majesty his grateful acknowledgments for the distinction which your Majesty conferred upon him, by requiring his advice and assistance in the attempt to form an Administration, and his earnest prayers that whatever arrangements your Majesty may be enabled to make for that purpose, may be most conducive to your Majesty’s personal comfort and happiness, and to the promotion of the public welfare.
It was generally believed at the time, as Sir Archibald Alison himself confesses, that Peel did not regret this royal rebuff; for “he was by no means sanguine,”[Pg 89] says the Tory historiographer, “as to the success of his mission, nor annoyed at the failure of the attempt to fulfil it.” The pro and con were put with equal terseness and skill by Lord Melbourne and the Duke of Wellington. The words of the latter were:—“It is essential that the Minister should possess the entire confidence of Her Majesty, and with that view should exercise the usual control permitted to the Minister by the Sovereign in the construction of the Household. There is the greatest possible difference between the Household of the Queen Consort and the Household of the Queen Regnant—that of the former, who is not a political personage, being comparatively of little importance.”
Lord Melbourne, on the other hand, thus justified the advice which his Royal Mistress had received from him and adopted:—“I frankly declare that I resume office unequivocally and solely for this reason, that I will not abandon my Sovereign in a situation of difficulty and distress, and especially when a demand is made upon Her Majesty with which, I think, she ought not to comply—a demand inconsistent with her personal honour, and which, if acquiesced in, would render her reign liable to all the changes and variations of political parties, and render her domestic life one constant scene of unhappiness and discomfort.”
The public at large, even those who thought her action wrong, accorded to the Queen sympathy rather than blame. It was well known that she had been dexterously surrounded by the wives and sisters and daughters of the great Whigs, and that on these ladies all her ardent and girlish affections were bestowed. This made the[Pg 90] people all the more angry that the male heads of the Whig houses now gave her unconstitutional advice. Not only her youth and inexperience, but the very warmth of the affection which she had displayed, and, above all, the fact that she was the chief sufferer on the occasion, all pleaded for her. Indeed, it may be said that the quickly-forgotten “Bedchamber Plot” rather endeared the Sovereign to her subjects than otherwise. Both of her uncles who preceded her on the throne had been exceedingly capricious and disloyal to their ministers. Under these reigns there was a constant sense, in the breasts of ministers and in the breasts of the people, of the precariousness of the existence of even the most popular cabinets. It certainly cannot be said that in the early summer of 1839 Lord Melbourne’s cabinet was popular. Nevertheless, though the ministers were blamed, the people were charmed by the Queen’s ingenuousness, bravery, and steadiness of attachment. It is but just to state that on every future occasion of the change of an Administration, the Queen has, without the slightest demur, conceded the point, the consideration of which we now dismiss. And with the transparent candour of her nature, Her Majesty has caused it to be made known that the Prince Consort had much to do with producing this result.
COURTSHIP AND BETROTHAL.
Desire of the Coburg Relatives for a Marriage between Victoria and Albert—Favourable Impressions mutually made by Victoria and Albert—Prince Albert’s Letter on the Queen’s Accession—Opposition of King William IV. to the Marriage—Correspondence between the Cousins—King Leopold urges on the Marriage—The Queen’s Reluctance to become Betrothed—Her subsequent Regret at this—The Prince craves a definite Determination—His Second Visit to England—Betrothed at last—Returns to Germany to say Farewell.
We have already seen that the marriage of Prince Albert with his cousin was strongly desired by their common relatives from a very early period of their lives. It was the “ardent wish” of their grandmother, and she freely communicated that wish to her son and daughter, Prince Leopold and the Duchess of Kent. There are strong indications that the astute King Leopold never lost sight of this end from the date of his mother’s death in 1831. Soon after the visit of the brothers to their “aunt Kent” in 1836, the rumour began to prevail in England that Prince Albert was the fiancé of the future Queen. The idea, however, was premature. So we know on the Queen’s authority, who has caused it to be stated that “nothing was then settled.”
In the letters which the Prince sent to his father and others, during his stay at Brussels and elsewhere,[Pg 92] immediately after his first visit to England, he made frequent reference to the general impressions thence derived, and especially to his young cousin. Of such allusions, this is a fair specimen:—“A few days ago I received a letter from aunt Kent, enclosing one from our cousin. She told me I was to communicate its contents to you, so I send it on with a translation of the English. The day before yesterday I received a second and yet kinder letter from my cousin, in which she thanks me for my good wishes on her birth-day. You may easily imagine that both these letters gave me great pleasure.” And when the news of the death of King William and the accession of Victoria arrived, he informed his father, on the authority of his uncle Leopold, that the new reign had commenced most successfully (this, perhaps, in allusion to the anticipated attempt at a coup d’état by the Duke of Cumberland), that his cousin Victoria had shown astonishing self-possession, although English parties were violently excited, and that the Duchess of Kent had found strenuous support against “violent attacks in the newspapers.” This last statement we have, however, good reasons for saying had reached the young Prince in a somewhat exaggerated form; we mean, so far as the “violence” of the attacks was concerned.
To the Queen herself the Prince wrote a letter, consolatory in her bereavement, and congratulatory on her accession. This was the first letter which he sent her written in English. He prayed Heaven to assist her now that she was “Queen of the mightiest land in Europe,” with the happiness of millions in her hand, and asked her “to think sometimes of her cousins[Pg 93] in Bonn [where they were then pursuing their University studies], and to continue that kindness you favoured them with till now.”
On the accession of the Queen, the rumour of her marriage with Prince Albert became ten times more prevalent. The judicious King Leopold thought it wise, for a time at least, to discourage this expectation, and to withdraw the attention of the English from the Prince. Hence it was that he counselled those journeys into Austria, South Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, in which we have already traced the steps of the Prince. This was chiefly dictated by the distracted state of parties in England, which the King of the Belgians thought it better to permit time to allay ere the matrimonial project was brought specifically forward. “United as all parties are,” wrote Prince Albert to his father, from the inspiration of his uncle, “in high praise of the young Queen, the more do they seem to manœuvre and intrigue with and against each other. On every side there is nothing but a network of cabals and intrigues, and parties are arrayed against each other in a most inexplicable manner.”
Whilst making his “grand tour,” the Prince kept up an occasional correspondence with his cousin. From Switzerland he sent her an album of the places which he visited, from the top of the Rigi a dried Alpine rose, and from Ferney an autographic scrap of Voltaire, which he received from an old servant of the great philosopher.
By the early part of 1839, the tour was concluded, and we find the Prince once more at Brussels with his uncle. Leopold now spoke to him more fully and [Pg 94]definitely than he had hitherto done about his prospects in life and the state of his affections. It very clearly appears that the marriage with the Queen had been gradually becoming more and more an understood thing. It appears equally clear that the Queen was averse, as yet, to committing herself to a distinct and final engagement. She was willing to marry, but wished to defer the contraction of the union. She thought both herself and her cousin too young; and the interests of her people, rather than any personal backwardness, influenced her wish that both she and her husband should be older ere they became man and wife. She regretted afterwards this delay, and felt that the harassments of the Bedchamber Plot and other still more painful incidents which we have thought it preferable not to rake up and reproduce in these pages, would have been borne by her with more equanimity had she had the natural protection of a husband six months or a year ere the date of her marriage. It was probably this postponement of any definite settlement that occasioned Prince Albert’s absence from England at the Coronation, in June, 1838. His father was invited, and received at the hands of his niece the honour of the Order of the Garter. The Dowager Duchess of Gotha was very proud of this, and proud also to recollect that her son-in-law possessed the noblest knightly order of Christendom, which her own father of Hesse-Cassel, and her father-in-law of Gotha, had also worn and treasured.
In more than one quarter the marriage, which all members of the Coburg family felt to be so eligible, and in which their feelings were so much involved, met with a considerable amount of opposition. By a curious[Pg 95] coincidence, a Prince of Orange had been the suitor favoured by George IV. for the hand of his daughter; but she selected the man of her own choice—Leopold, a Coburg Prince. And a Prince of Orange (nephew of the rejected aspirant to the hand of the Princess Charlotte) was the man thought by William IV., as long as he lived, to be the best future husband of his niece and successor; and his niece, too, selected, like her cousin Charlotte, as the man of her choice, a Prince of the House of Coburg. King William did all in his power to discourage the attachment between Victoria and Albert. He was so strongly set against this match that he did all that he could even to prevent Prince Albert’s visit to England in 1836; and although he never spoke to his young niece on the subject himself, she afterwards learned that he had devised no fewer than five matrimonial alternatives for her selection—that of the late Prince Alexander of the Netherlands always having the preference and priority. In justice to the memory of King William it must, however, be stated that the Dowager Queen Adelaide afterwards told her niece that her uncle would never have striven to control or restrain her affections if he had had any idea that they had been strongly bestowed in any particular quarter.
It was in the early part of 1839, that King Leopold first wrote seriously to his niece on the subject—about the same time that we have seen that he made a similar verbal communication to his nephew. He received a favourable response from both, but with this difference, that the lady craved an indefinite delay. This idea of delay the Prince dealt with in a very honest and manly manner. He had, he said, no objections to [Pg 96]postponement; but, nevertheless, thought he had a fair right, if he were to keep himself free, and thereby be compelled to decline any other career or line of life which might open itself out to him, to have some definite assurance or understanding that the engagement would be without doubt contracted. This concession, however, the equally natural bashfulness of the Queen would not suffer her to make. However, all came right in the end, and the Queen has very candidly confessed in her riper years, that if she had known as a girl what she afterwards learned as a woman, that she even seemed to be playing with her somewhat undemonstrative but not the less devoted lover, she would not have exacted the semi-sacrifice which the Prince’s self-respect caused him to feel uneasy at, but to which the true courtesy of his nature induced him to submit. He did wait till 1839, but the Queen afterwards learned that he came to England in that year prepared to declare that, in the case of further postponement, he must decline to consider himself bound in any way for the future.
In October, 1839, Prince Albert, with his brother, set out from Brussels to England, to urge his final suit. Ere leaving Germany, he had spent a very pleasant time with his cousin, Count Albert Mensdorff, who was doing military duty with the garrison of Mayence. They then made a short journey together, in the course of which the one cousin confided the great secret to the other. “During our journey,” writes the Count, “Albert confided to me, under the seal of the strictest confidence, that he was going to England to make your acquaintance, and that if you liked each other you were to be engaged.[Pg 97] He spoke very seriously about the difficulties of the position he would have to occupy in England, but hoped that dear uncle Leopold would assist him with his advice.” The Princes—Albert bearing with him a shrewd and significant letter to the Queen from King Leopold—arrived at Windsor on the 10th of October, where they were cordially received by their cousin and aunt. The Queen was much struck with the greatly improved appearance of the Prince, in the interval of three years since she had last seen him. Gay and festive entertainments had been arranged in their honour immediately upon their arrival. The Queen became more and more charmed with her cousin, and within a week after his arrival, she informed her Premier, Lord Melbourne, that she had made up her mind to the marriage. In reply, he indicated his own perfect satisfaction, and added that the nation was getting anxious that its sovereign should be married; and then he said, in a kindly way, “You will be much more comfortable; for a woman cannot stand alone for any time, in whatever position she may be.”
The following we present, without professing either to confirm or question its accuracy, but simply as being the commonly-received report, at the time, of the manner in which the engagement was finally effected between the parties directly interested:—
The Prince, in his turn, played the part of a royal lover with all the grace peculiar to his house. He never willingly absented himself from the Queen’s society and presence, and her every wish was anticipated with the alacrity of an unfeigned attachment. At length Her Majesty, having wholly made up her mind as to the issue of this visit, found herself in some measure embarrassed as to the fit and proper means of indicating her preference to the Prince. This was[Pg 98] a perplexing task, but the Queen acquitted herself of it with equal delicacy and tact. At one of the Palace balls she took occasion to present her bouquet to the Prince at the conclusion of a dance, and the hint was not lost upon the polite and gallant German. His close uniform, buttoned up to the throat, did not admit of his placing the Persian-like gift where it would be most honoured; so he immediately drew his penknife and cut a slit in his dress in the neighbourhood of his heart, where he gracefully deposited the happy omen. Again, to announce to the Privy Council her intended union was an easy duty in comparison to that of intimating her wishes to the principal party concerned; and here, too, it is said that our Sovereign Lady displayed unusual presence of mind and female ingenuity. The Prince was expressing the grateful sense which he entertained of his reception in England, and the delight which he experienced during his stay from the kind attentions of royalty, when the Queen, very naturally and very pointedly, put to him the question upon which their future fates depended: “If, indeed, your Highness is so much pleased with this country, perhaps you would not object to remaining in it, and making it your home?” No one can doubt the reply.
The day after the Queen’s communication to her Premier, she caused an intimation to be conveyed to her lover that she desired to see him in private. The Prince at once waited upon her, and after a few minutes’ general conversation, the Queen told him why she had sent for him, and modestly but plainly said that she was quite willing now to undertake the bond of betrothal. Of course, there was only one possible response, and the Prince joyously wrote the next day to his trusty friend and tried counsellor, Baron Stockmar, “on one of the happiest days of his life, to give him the most welcome news.” The betrothal was at once communicated to Prince Ernest, to King Leopold, and to the Duke of Coburg. From these and other relatives to whom the news, as yet to be kept a family secret, was sent, the warmest felicitations quickly poured in. Leopold wrote,[Pg 99] commending Albert in the highest terms, and emphatically congratulating Victoria on having secured an unmistakably good husband, concluding with the prayer, “May Albert be able to strew roses without thorns on the pathway of life of our good Victoria!”
The Queen had intended to make her first formal announcement of her intended marriage to her Parliament; but on second thoughts, she altered her resolve, and selected her Privy Council as the first official recipients of the tidings. Of course, the Ministers had been already confidentially informed of the Queen’s purpose; and they strongly counselled an early union, and both Queen and Prince acquiesced in the proposal. After happy and rapturous days of undoubted and now freely-acknowledged attachment, the Princes returned to Germany, on the 14th of November, after a visit lasting just five weeks; Ernest to return to his military duties, Albert to say farewell to friends and fatherland, ere finally returning to the region of his new life and love.
THE QUEEN WEDDED.
Announcement of the intended Marriage to the Privy Council and Parliament—Parliamentary Settlement of the Prince’s Rank, &c.—Annoying Circumstances—The Prince’s Protestantism—His Income—Arrival of the Bridegroom—Receives a National Welcome—The Wedding—Honeymoon spent at Windsor.
On the day after the departure of the Princes, the Queen wrote letters to the Queen Dowager, and the other members of the Royal Family, informing them of her intended marriage, and received kind letters in return from all. A few days later she and her mother came from Windsor to Buckingham Palace, where Lord Melbourne submitted the draft of the proposed Declaration to the Privy Council. His Lordship told the Queen that the Cabinet had unanimously agreed that £50,000 would be an appropriate annual allowance for the Prince, and that they anticipated no Parliamentary opposition to that amount. He also stated that there had been a stupid attempt to make it out that he was a Roman Catholic, and that “he was afraid to say anything about his religion,” and accordingly had not touched upon it in the Declaration. This turned out, as we shall see, a very unwise omission; it actually gave colour and consistency to the absurd report.
On the 23rd of November, eighty-three members of the Privy Council met in Buckingham Palace. Precisely[Pg 101] at two the Queen entered. She evinced much natural agitation, but was considerably reassured by a kindly and paternal look from her staunch friend, Lord Melbourne; whereupon she read the Declaration, which ran thus:—
I have caused you to be summoned at the present time in order that I may acquaint you with my resolution in a matter which deeply concerns the welfare of my people, and the happiness of my future life. It is my intention to ally myself in marriage with the Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Deeply impressed with the solemnity of the engagement which I am about to contract, I have not come to this decision without mature consideration, nor without feeling a strong assurance that, with the blessing of Almighty God, it will at once secure my domestic felicity and serve the interests of my country. I have thought fit to make this resolution known to you at the earliest period, in order that you may be apprised of a matter so highly important to me and to my kingdom, and which, I persuade myself, will be most acceptable to all my loving subjects.
The moment the Queen had read the Declaration, Lord Lansdowne rose and asked, in the name of the Council, that “this most gracious and most welcome communication might be printed.” Leave was granted, and Her Majesty left the room, the whole ceremony having occupied only two or three minutes. The Duke of Cambridge followed his niece into the ante-room, and warmly congratulated her. The Declaration appeared in the next Gazette, whence it was copied into all the newspapers, and was joyfully read and received over the whole land.
There were now important questions to be settled, in Parliament, in the Council, and by the exercise of the Royal prerogative, as to the future rank and station of the Prince. Such were—Should he be made a peer? as had been the last consort of an English Queen, Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne, of whom the[Pg 102] only good thing that can be said is, that he accidentally made Arbuthnot, Pope’s great friend and fellow-labourer, his Court physician. The idea of being made a peer was strenuously, sensibly, and successfully resisted by the Prince. Then there were the practical questions of his naturalisation, the selection of his Household, his position in the scale of precedence, and his income. So far as the Prince legitimately could and did meddle with the solution of these knotty points, he showed, when necessary, great sagacity, and a firmness very wondrous in one so young. From the very moment of his betrothal, he regarded himself as the custodian and guardian of his future wife’s, rather than his own, independent position and unfettered dignity. It was not himself, but the husband of the Queen on behalf of whom he took a firm line.
The Queen wished to give her husband precedence next after herself. Some difficulty was experienced in procuring the consent of the Royal Dukes, but at last their scruples were removed. Only the King of Hanover stubbornly held out, and the Duke of Wellington, in the House of Peers, declined on behalf of his party to consent. The proposal was, therefore, withdrawn from Parliament, but shortly after the Queen conferred a patent of precedence by the exercise of her own prerogative. On a similar matter of dispute, it was not until the Prince himself had pointed out the unaccountably overlooked precedent of the privilege as enjoyed by Prince Leopold in the life-time of the Princess Charlotte, that Garter King-at-Arms could be induced to withdraw his opinion adverse to Prince Albert quartering the Royal Arms of England with his own.
[Pg 103]In the matter of his Household, the Prince’s own admirable judgment solved the difficulty with the clear adroitness of honest simplicity. He stipulated that considerations of party should have nothing to do with these appointments; that they should be filled by men of undoubted probity and purity of character; and he indicated his decided wish that they should be men of some kind of eminence; either very rich, very clever, or men who had deserved well of their country in the field of science or of arms. These wishes, to the Prince’s considerable annoyance, were not all closely followed out.
The Queen was tremendously cheered when, in January, 1840, she went to open Parliament, and no doubt was left in her mind as to the thorough popularity of the proposed union. The announcement of her intention contained in the Speech was a virtual repetition of that already made to the Council. From both sides of both Houses she was personally congratulated, and her choice approved, but the Duke of Wellington strongly objected to the omission of the statement that the Prince was a Protestant, with some shrewdness attributing its absence to Melbourne’s reluctance to irritate his Irish Catholic supporters. The Duke at the same time repeated again and again his own perfect personal conviction in the thorough fidelity of the Prince to the historic and heroic Protestantism of his race. Lord Brougham spoke on this point, and very pertinently: “I may remark,” he said, “that my noble friend (Lord Melbourne) is mistaken as to the law. There is no prohibition as to marriage with a Catholic. It is only attended with a penalty, and that penalty is merely the forfeiture of the Crown.” In spite of this, a sentence asserting the fact of the Prince’s Protestantism was,[Pg 104] at the Duke of Wellington’s instance, inserted in the Address agreed to in answer to the Speech from the Throne.
There remained only the question of the Prince’s annuity. Ministers proposed £50,000. A very large majority negatived a proposal by Mr. Hume to reduce it to £20,000. But the Tory leaders supported a proposal of Colonel Sibthorpe’s to reduce it to £30,000, and by a considerable majority this was carried. The Queen, and her uncle Leopold, were extremely angry at the time at what they conceived to be the personal slight conveyed in this fact. But the Queen, under the wise and placable guidance of the Prince, afterwards learned to attribute it to the then heat of party rancour, still unallayed after the Bedchamber dispute; and the Prince at an early period of his residence in England contracted warm and abiding friendships with many of the men who had most strongly resisted Ministers on each of the above contested points.
On the 28th of January, Prince Albert, accompanied by Lord Torrington and Colonel (now General) Grey, who had been sent to invest him with the insignia of the Garter and conduct him in due state to England, set out from Gotha, as we have already seen at a previous page. He was also accompanied by his father and brother. After a passing visit to King Leopold at Brussels, they were met at Calais by Lord Clarence Paget, who commanded the Firebrand, and escorted the distinguished visitors to the shores of England, at which they arrived on the 6th of February. After magnificent and most hearty receptions at Dover and Canterbury, they reached Buckingham Palace in the afternoon of Saturday, the 8th of February,[Pg 105] where the Prince found his bride standing with her mother at the door, ready to be the first to meet and to greet him. Half an hour later, the Lord Chancellor administered the oath of naturalisation, and the Prince became a subject of Queen Victoria. A grand dinner to the Prince, the Ministers, and the great officers of State succeeded in the evening. The next day the Prince drove out, amid the cheers of immense crowds, to pay formal visits to all the members of the Royal Family.
Monday, the 10th, was the day appointed for the wedding, which was magnificently celebrated in the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace. On the morning of that day a larger crowd assembled in St. James’s Park and its approaches than had been collected together in the metropolis since the rejoicings at the visit of the Allied Sovereigns in 1814. Not even the extreme inclemency of the weather abated either the patience or enthusiasm of the multitude. After the ladies and gentlemen of the Households of the Queen and the Prince had been driven along the Mall from the palace of residence to the palace of state, and the carriages which conveyed them had returned, the bridegroom was notified that all was in readiness for his departure. He set out, dressed as a British field-marshal, and with all the insignia of the Garter, the jewels of which had been a personal present from the Queen, having on one side his father and on the other his brother, both in military uniforms. He entered his carriage amid tremendous cheers, and the enthusiastic waving of handkerchiefs by a bevy of ladies privileged to stand in the grand lobbies of the palace, and was escorted to the chapel by a squadron of the Life Guards. On the return of the carriages which carried the Prince and his[Pg 106] company, Her Majesty was in turn apprised that all was in readiness for her departure. She, too, was enthusiastically received, “but her eye was bent principally upon the ground.” In the same carriage with the Queen rode the Duchesses of Kent and Sutherland. It was noticed as she drove along that she was extremely pale, and looked very anxious, though two or three incidents in the crowd caused her to smile.
On her arrival at her palace of St. James’s, the Queen was conducted to the Presence Chamber, where she remained with her maids-of-honour and trainbearers, awaiting the Lord Chamberlain’s summons to the altar. Meanwhile, the colonnade within the palace, along which the bridal procession had to pass and repass, had been filled since early morn by the élite of England’s rank and beauty. Each side of the way was a parterre of white robes, white relieved with blue, white and green, amber, crimson, purple, fawn, and stone colour. All wore wedding favours of lace, orange-flower blossoms, or silver bullion, some of great size, and many in most exquisite taste. Most of the gentlemen were in court dress; and the scene during the patient hours of waiting was made picturesque by the passing to and fro in various garbs of burly yeomen of the guard, armed with their massive halberts, slight-built gentlemen-at-arms, with partisans of equal slightness; elderly pages of state, and pretty pages of honour; officers of the Lord Chamberlain, and officers of the Woods and Forests; heralds all embroidery, and cuirassiers in polished steel; prelates in their rochets, and priests in their stoles, and singing boys in their surplices of virgin white.
Within the chapel, in which the altar was magnificently[Pg 107] decorated and laden with a profusion of gold plate, four state chairs were set, varying in splendour according to the rank of the destined occupants, respectively for Her Majesty, Prince Albert, the Queen Dowager, and the Duchess of Kent. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London, having taken their places within the altar-rails, a flourish of trumpets announced the procession of the bridegroom. As the Prince passed along, the gentlemen greeted him with loud clapping of the hands, and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs with at least equal enthusiasm.
In a few minutes the procession of the bride was announced by trumpets and drums. It was of six or seven times the numerical strength of the bridegroom’s, and the beauty of the twelve bridesmaids, all daughters of peers of the three highest grades, was specially commended. The Duchess of Cambridge led by the hand her then child-daughter, the Princess Mary, “and the mother of so beautiful a child was certainly not to be seen without much interest.” The Duchess of Kent appeared “disconsolate and distressed;” while the Duke of Sussex, who was to give away the bride, was “in excellent spirits.” The Queen herself looked “anxious and excited, and paler even than usual.” She was dressed in a rich white satin, trimmed with orange-flower blossoms. She wore a wreath of the same, over which was a veil of rich Honiton lace, worn so as not to conceal her face. She wore as jewels the Collar of the Order of the Garter, with a diamond necklace and earrings. The bridesmaids were the Ladies Adelaide Paget, Sarah Villiers, Frances Cowper, Elizabeth West, Mary Grimston, Eleanor Paget, Caroline Lennox, Elizabeth Howard,[Pg 108] Ida Hay, Catherine Stanhope, Jane Bouverie, and Mary Howard.
After the conclusion of the marriage rite, the Queen hastily crossed to the opposite side of the altar, and kissed the Queen Dowager, who was standing there. She then took Prince Albert’s hand, and passed down the aisle. On the return to Buckingham Palace, it was observed that the Prince, still retaining the Queen’s hand in his own, whether by accident or design, held it in such a way as to display the wedding-ring, which was more solid than is usual in ordinary weddings. When the Queen had been led into the palace by her husband, it was observed that her morning paleness had entirely passed off, and that she entered her own halls with an open, joyous, and slightly flushed countenance.
After the wedding breakfast the young couple departed, at a quarter before four, for Windsor, amid the cheers of the undiminished multitude. Her Majesty’s travelling dress was a white satin pelisse, trimmed with swansdown, with a white satin bonnet and feather. As the cortége passed rapidly up Constitution Hill, the Queen bowed in return to the cheers of her applauding subjects with much earnestness of manner. When the Queen and Prince arrived at Windsor, they found the whole town illuminated, and received a rapturous welcome from the citizens and the Eton boys, all wearing favours.
We shall conclude this chapter, which we shall not desecrate by devoting to any other deity than Hymen, by a brief description of the Queen’s wedding-cake, which, fortunately for our enterprise, we have succeeded in disinterring from the contemporary records. It was[Pg 109] described by an eye-witness as consisting of all the most exquisite compounds of all the rich things with which the most expensive cakes can be composed, mingled and mixed together with delightful harmony by the most elaborate science of the confectioner. It weighed 300 pounds, was three yards in circumference, and fourteen inches in depth. On the top was a device of Britannia blessing the bride and bridegroom, who were dressed, somewhat incongruously, in the costume of ancient Rome. At the foot of the bridegroom was the figure of a dog, intended to denote fidelity; at the feet of the Queen a pair of turtle-doves. A host of gamboling Cupids, one of them registering the marriage in a book, and bouquets of white flowers tied with true-lovers’ knots, completed the decorations.
EARLY YEARS OF MARRIED LIFE.
Difficulties and Delicacy of Prince Albert’s Position—Early Married Life—Studies continued—Attempts on the Queen’s Life—Courage of the Queen—Birth of the Princess Royal—Parting from the Whig Ladies of the Bedchamber—Dark Days for England—Birth of the Prince of Wales—The Queen described by M. Guizot—A Dinner at Buckingham Palace—State Dinner at Windsor.
The Queen was now married to the husband of her choice. “It is that,” said Lord Melbourne to her, “which makes your Majesty’s marriage so popular, as they know it is not for state reasons.” A few months after the wedding-day, the Prince wrote to an old college associate—“I am very happy and contented.” After the wedding, the young couple stayed for four days at Windsor, reading, riding, walking together, and giving small dinner parties in the evening. They then returned to Buckingham Palace, where a large crowd had collected to welcome them, and fairly commenced the common duties of their married life. At first it would appear that jealousies, in quarters which need not be specified, prevented the Prince taking his proper position as the head of his home and household. He wrote to his friend, Prince Löwenstein, in May, 1840—“I am only the husband, not the master in the house.” But the common sense of the Queen, and the dignity of the Prince, soon set this matter to rights. When urged[Pg 111] that she, as being Sovereign, must be the head of the house, she quietly rejoined that she had sworn to obey, as well as love and honour, her husband, and that she was determined to keep all her bridal troth. She communicated all foreign despatches to him, and frequently he made annotations on them, which were communicated to the Minister whose department they affected. He had often the satisfaction of discovering that the Minister, though he might say nothing on the subject, nevertheless acted upon his suggestions. His correspondence to Germany soon bore a very different tone and complexion. To use his own words, and slightly expand them, he “endeavoured to be of as much use to Victoria as possible.” The Queen now, having received the approval of the Duke of Wellington, whom she consulted as a confidential friend, for the first time put her husband in his proper place, by giving him, by Royal Letters Patent, to which Parliamentary sanction is not required, rank and precedence next to herself, except in Parliament and the Privy Council.
Frequent levées, and “dinners followed by little dances,” formed the chief amusements of the young couple in the earliest stage of their married life. They went much, too, to the play, both having an especial relish for and admiration of Shakespeare. The Queen, although now a married woman, by no means neglected useful or solacing and refining studies. She took singing lessons from Lablache, and frequently sang and played with the Prince, sometimes using the piano, sometimes the organ as accompaniment. They went to Claremont, the Queen’s favourite youthful haunt, to celebrate her birthday, and continued to do so, even after the purchase[Pg 112] of Osborne, until 1848, when Claremont was given as a residence to the ex-Queen of the French. Both Queen and Prince were extremely glad to get away from the smoke and grime of London. In fact, these constituted a peculiar source of physical oppression to both; and they were always glad to retire to the rural quiet and seclusion of Claremont.
The first alarming incident of the Queen’s wedded life occurred on the 10th of June, 1840. In her first early days of maiden queenhood, she had been annoyed by madmen wanting to marry her. On more than one occasion her saddle-horse was attempted to be stopped in the Park by one of such maniacs, as she was attended by an equerry; and in two instances similar attempts were made by innocent lunatics to force their way into Windsor Castle, in each case armed with nothing more deadly than a proposal of marriage. But what we are about to narrate was a much more serious matter. There is no denying the fact, that, after the first two years of her reign, the Queen was, for a time, by no means so popular as she had been. Her ministers were eminently unpopular, and to no slight extent she shared their unpopularity. Appalling distress prevailed, and Chartism and other more dangerous forms of sedition were rife. The poor asked how so much money could be spent on the Queen’s hospitable entertainments, while they were starving; and inquired how it was that the name of Lord Melbourne, who should be supposed to have work enough to do looking after the affairs of the distressed nation, should appear in the newspapers almost every day as attending some of Her Majesty’s banquets. Occasionally during the summer she was received in public[Pg 113] in silence, and once or twice, in theatres and elsewhere, disagreeable cries were heard. More than once during this and one or two succeeding years, pistol-shots were fired at her. We select one, and the first attack upon her, as a type of the others. A youth named Oxford, some seventeen or eighteen years of age, either a fool or a madman, fired two pistol-shots at her, as she and her husband were driving in a phaeton up Constitution Hill. He was at once arrested, and it being impossible to assign any conceivable cause for the act, he was declared insane, and doomed to incarceration for life. Neither the Queen nor the Prince were injured, and both showed the utmost self-possession.
Perhaps the best proof of her bravery on the occasion of this outrage, as it was an unquestionable proof of her tenderness of heart, was the fact that within a minute or two after the shot of Oxford had been fired, she had the horses’ heads turned towards her mother’s house, that her mother should see her sound and uninjured, ere an exaggerated or indiscreetly communicated report of the occurrence could reach her. Immediately after, she drove to Hyde Park, whither she had been proceeding before the outrage occurred, to take her usual drive before dinner. An immense concourse of persons of all ranks and both sexes had assembled, and the enthusiasm of her reception almost overpowered her. Prince Albert’s face, alternately pale and flushed, betrayed the strength of his emotions. They returned to Buckingham Palace attended by a most magnificent escort of the rank and beauty of London, on horseback and in carriages. A great crowd of a humbler sort was at the Palace gates to greet her, and it was said that she did not lose her composure[Pg 114] until a flood of tears relieved her pent-up excitement in her own chamber. “God save the Queen” was demanded at all the theatres in the evening, and in the immediately succeeding days the Queen received, seated on her throne, loyal and congratulatory addresses from the Peers in their robes, and wearing all their decorations; from the Commons, from the City Corporation, and many other public bodies.
Oxford was incarcerated in Bethlehem Hospital, one of the great metropolitan lunatic asylums, in which he remained many years, and of which he was made one of the chief “sights” by its visitors. Perhaps it was this circumstance that induced the authorities to order his removal to Broadmoor, the state prison in which persons charged with felonious crimes, whose lunacy has been established, have within recent years been confined. There he remained until the commencement of the winter months of 1867. During all the weary period which intervened between the perpetration of his offence and that date his conduct was exemplary, and no evidence of mental aberration appeared. At various times appeals were made in his behalf by influential persons who had the opportunity of watching his demeanour and judging his character. His own representation from first to last ever was that the pistol which he fired was not loaded. He attributed the act which so nearly cost him his life and which wasted the best years of his existence, to inordinate vanity, fostered by a variety of trivial circumstances in his domestic life, on which it is not necessary to dwell, and which led to a senseless desire—similar to that which has perpetuated the name of Erostratus, the incendiary who fired the Temple of Diana at Ephesus—to[Pg 115] gain notoriety by whatever means. To a certain extent he educated himself during his confinement, and became a tolerable linguist. He also taught himself that branch of the house-painter’s trade termed “graining,” sufficiently well to enable him to earn a decent livelihood. At last, late in 1867, he received a free pardon and release, subject only to the very proper provision that he should expatriate himself and never return to British shores. The same mania, or silly senselessness, might break out again, and it is manifestly right that the person of the Sovereign should be protected from the vanity of a man who, at however distant a period, could commit the cowardly outrage of which he was the author.
When, a year or two later, the Queen was again providentially saved from similar felonious attempts, their character being of the same nature as that of Oxford’s, a strong feeling animated the general public mind that some special deterrent should be devised to prevent or reduce the likelihood of such maniacal or quasi-maniacal deeds. An Act of Parliament was accordingly passed, ere the close of the Session of 1843, by which severe flogging was imposed as part punishment in all such cases. It had the desired effect. From the period of its enactment until now, attempts to take the Queen’s life, and minor assaults upon her person, have been almost entirely unknown.
On the afternoon of the 21st of November, the country was gladdened by the birth of the Queen’s first-born, the Princess Royal, now Crown Princess of Prussia. The event occurred considerably before the period anticipated by the Queen’s medical and other attendants, and preparations had to be made in a hurry.[Pg 116] Nevertheless, the Queen soon regained her accustomed health, and so rapidly that we find it recorded that on the day before that appointed for the christening, she and a lady of the Court, exercising their strength and preserving their presence of mind, rescued the Prince from a most perilous if not fatal position. He had been skating, accompanied only by the Queen and one Lady-in-waiting, and had fallen through the ice in such a position that he could not possibly have extricated himself.
Two days after the Princess was born, Mr. Selwyn, a gentleman with whom Prince Albert was reading English law and constitutional history, came to give his pupil his accustomed lesson. The Prince said to him, “I fear I cannot read any law to-day, there are so many constantly coming to congratulate; but you will like to see the little Princess.” He took his tutor into the nursery, as he found that the child was asleep. Taking her hand, he said, “The next time we read, it must be on the rights and duties of a Princess Royal.”
In 1841 Lord Melbourne was no longer Prime Minister. Sir Robert Peel, who had gained the largest Parliamentary majority which had been known for many years, reigned in his stead. The Queen made no difficulty about the Ladies of the Household now. Her tastes and feelings were consulted with great delicacy and consideration by the Premier, and the selection of the Duchess of Buccleuch in the first instance as Mistress of the Robes, which post may be termed the female Premiership of the Household, was especially gratifying to Her Majesty. But her heart was, nevertheless, loth to part with the constant female companions of the first four[Pg 117] years of her reign. Thursday, September the 2nd, was the last evening she spent with them. At the dinner-table she could scarcely trust herself to speak, and she is reported to have shed bitter tears when she retired with her ladies. Everybody pitied the young Sovereign, and saw and felt the hardship involved. But it was an inevitable accompaniment of her high position.
The heir to the throne adorned by Queen Victoria was born in the midst of one of the very darkest periods of English history. In 1841 the condition of the people had been declining from the beginning of the year. Operatives were on half time—at last they had no work at all—and the few who had had the means or the will to be provident, were living on their savings. Public meetings were being held to consider what was to be done, and public subscriptions were opened. Then the idle hands commenced to meet in large numbers, with a sullen look of despair, waiting for death or alms—a comparatively small number being employed at the expense of municipal and other recognised bodies, in road making or road mending. Crime, which follows pauperism as surely and almost as rapidly as the obscene vulture pounces upon the carrion which is not yet cold, was rife; murders came in multitudes, poisonings by wholesale; murders by trades unionists, murders by thieves. It was when this dark cloud lowered over England—a cloud never completely dispelled until the rise of the great and glorious Free Trade sun, five years later—that the Prince of Wales first breathed. A London Gazette extraordinary, which appeared on Tuesday evening, November the 9th, ran as follows:—
[Pg 118]Buckingham Palace, Nov. 9th.
This morning, at twelve minutes before eleven o’clock, the Queen was happily delivered of a Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Albert, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, several Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, and the Ladies of Her Majesty’s Bedchamber, being present.
This great and important news was immediately made known to the town by the firing of the Tower and Park guns; and the Privy Council being assembled as soon as possible thereupon, at the Council Chamber, Whitehall, it was ordered that a Form of Thanksgiving be prepared by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be used in all churches and chapels throughout England and Wales and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, on Sunday, the 14th of November, or the Sunday after the respective ministers shall receive the same.
Her Majesty and the infant Prince are, God be praised, both doing well.
The joy of the nation at the succession to the crown in the progeny of the Queen and Prince Albert being thus secured, was excessive. Upon the announcement of the happy accouchement, the nobility and gentry crowded to the Palace to tender their dutiful inquiries as to the Sovereign’s convalescence. Amongst others, came the Lord Mayor and civic dignitaries in great state. They felt peculiarly proud that the Prince should have been born on Lord Mayor’s day; in fact, just at the very moment when the time-honoured procession was starting from the City for Westminster. In memory of the happy coincidence, the Lord Mayor of the year, Mr. Pirie, was created Sir John Pirie, Baronet. On the 4th of December, the Queen created her son by Letters Patent, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester:—“And him, our said and most dear son, the Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as has been accustomed, we do ennoble and invest with the said Principality and Earldom, by girding him with a sword,[Pg 119] by putting a coronet on his head, and a gold ring on his finger, and also by delivering a gold rod into his hand, that he may preside there, and direct and defend those parts.” By the fact of his birth as Heir-Apparent, the Prince indefeasibly inherited, without the necessity of patent or creation, these dignities—the titles of Duke of Saxony, by right of his father; and, by right of his mother, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothsay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Great Steward of Scotland.
In the early spring of 1840, the distinguished French statesman, M. Guizot, came over to England, being sent hither by the French Premier, Marshal Soult, on a special mission with reference to those complications in the East, which culminated the following year in that war between the Sultan Mahmoud and his vassal Mehemet Ali, in which British tars under Stopford and “Charley Napier” played so conspicuous a part. His pacific mission was a failure, and from its failure dates, first the loosening, and then the severance, of the close relations which subsisted for eleven years after 1830 between the Courts of St. James’s and the Tuileries.
King Louis Philippe had conveyed to M. Guizot his desire that he should take the first opportunity of recalling to the Queen the intimacy which he had maintained with her father, the Duke of Kent; and Guizot resolved to remind Her Majesty of the circumstance when he was received by her on presenting his letters of credence. He prudently, however, asked Lord Palmerston, on whom, as Foreign Secretary, devolved the duty of presenting him, whether such a communication would be agreeable. Lord Palmerston instantly[Pg 120] replied in the negative. He stated that the reception would be a purely official formality, and gave him to understand that the Queen would much prefer not having to reply to any speech. He therefore determined to abstain from making one. On the last day of February, he received a note at ten minutes past one from Lord Palmerston, stating that the Queen would be glad to receive him that day at one o’clock. Guizot immediately sent to Palmerston “to explain the delay, and his own innocence.” He then dressed with all speed, and reached Buckingham Palace a little before two. Precisely at the moment of his arrival, Lord Palmerston’s carriage also drove up. He told Guizot that the Queen’s orders had been forwarded to him (Palmerston) too late. Luckily, the Queen had other audiences to give, which occupied her fully until the appearance of the two astute and rival diplomats. But another difficulty arose. There was no Master of Ceremonies at hand to introduce him. Sir Robert Chester, who held that post, had received his summons, as tardily as that which had been sent to Lord Palmerston. That gentleman had not hastened his movements so rapidly as the active Frenchman. Although a breach of form, Lord Palmerston, therefore, undertook and performed the office of Sir Robert. The Queen received Guizot “with a gracious manner at once youthful and serious.” He remarked that the dignity of her manner caused one to forget the smallness of her stature. On entering, he said, “I trust, Madam, that your Majesty is aware of my excuse, for of myself [that is, if the blame of unpunctuality rested with me] I should be inexcusable.” She smiled in return, as if little surprised at, and quite used to, the want of punctuality. After all,[Pg 121] in spite of Lord Palmerston’s instructions to him, the Queen did grant him, in the strict and literal sense of the term, an audience. Though short, it was long enough to enable the Queen to chat with him, and inquire about his Sovereign, his consort, and their family. The Queen, of course, was warmly interested about the Orleans family, for one of the daughters of its head was the second wife of her uncle, King Leopold, and, therefore, her matrimonial aunt. So that Guizot did find and embrace the opportunity of reminding the Queen of the intimacy between his royal master and her father.
As he was retiring, Lord Palmerston, who remained a moment or two with the Queen, after she had bid M. Guizot adieu, said hastily to him, “There is something more; I am going to introduce you to Prince Albert and the Duchess of Kent; you could not otherwise be presented to them, except at the next levée, on the 6th of March, but it is necessary, on the contrary, that on that day you should be already old friends.” These further presentations were, accordingly, made; Guizot being struck with the political intelligence which the conversation of the Prince, in spite of his constitutional reserve, displayed. Guizot left the palace greatly pleased with his reception. As he passed through the hall, he saw the Master of Ceremonies in hot haste descending from his carriage, and “anxious to apologise to him, with temper somewhat ruffled, for his involuntary uselessness.”
An invitation to dinner at Buckingham Palace for five days after quickly reached him at his residence, Hertford House. He remarked on the want of animation and interest in the conversation, whether at the dinner-table or in the drawing-room. Politics of any kind, home or[Pg 122] foreign, were, apparently to his surprise, strictly avoided. When the gentlemen joined the ladies, which, throughout the Queen’s reign, has been at a very short interval after the departure of the latter from the dining-room, they all sat on chairs round a circular table set before the Queen, who occupied a sofa. Two or three of her ladies engaged themselves in fancy work; Prince Albert challenged some one to a game at chess. Lady Palmerston and M. Guizot, “with some effort,” carried on a flagging dialogue. The conversation being thus flat, M. Guizot took to looking at the pictures on the walls, of which there were but three, hung over the different doors of the apartment. He was very much astonished at the extraordinary contrasts in the subjects of these pictures. They certainly were most incongruous. One was Fénélon, the second the Czar Peter, and the third Anne Hyde, the discarded wife of James II. He asked one of his fellow-guests whether the combination was intentional or an accident? But he could get no satisfaction on the subject. No one had remarked the combination, and no one could tell the reason for it.
At the levée which he attended the day following, he was still more astounded and perplexed. He thought its presentations and other paraphernalia “a long and monotonous ceremony.” Yet it inspired this keen and philosophic student of men and manners with “real interest.” We shall allow M. Guizot, ere we finally leave his companionship, to express his views on this peculiarly English institution in his own words:—“I regarded with excited esteem the profound respect of that vast assembly—courtiers, citizens, lawyers, churchmen, officers, military and naval, passing before the Queen, the greater portion[Pg 123] bending the knee to kiss her hand, all perfectly solemn, sincere, and awkward. The sincerity and seriousness were both needed to prevent those antiquated habits, wigs, and bags, those costumes which no one in England now wears except on such occasions, from appearing somewhat ridiculous. But I am little sensible to the outward appearance of absurdity when the substance partakes not of that character.”
As a companion picture of the Queen at home at this epoch of her reign, for the lineaments of which we have acknowledged our indebtedness to M. Guizot, we present these recollections of the Queen in her young married days, which we condense from a gossiping work by Lord William Lennox. The Queen had a splendid new ballroom built in Buckingham Palace, and nothing could exceed the brilliancy of the entertainments which she gave there. To one of these, in 1842, Lord Lennox received an invitation. It was a bal costumé, the first, he believed, which had ever been given in England by a Prince of the House of Brunswick. A second ball, in which, unlike the former, the dresses were confined to the reigns of George II. and III., was given in the same year. All had to appear in powder—a somewhat trying ordeal to such ladies and gentlemen as did not possess fine features.
Somewhat about the same time, Lord Lennox dined at Windsor Castle, at the great banquet given on the Ascot Cup day. A magnificent déjeuner had been served for luncheon on the course in Tippoo Sahib’s tent. At the dinner in the evening, the first thing which struck one who was a guest for the first time on such an occasion, was the exact punctuality of the Queen and[Pg 124] Prince. Although necessarily fatigued with the bustle and excitement of the day, they were in the drawing-room some minutes before the dinner was announced, and after a courteous greeting to all the guests, proceeded at once to dinner. Another observable peculiarity was that the Prince left the table twenty minutes after the ladies. The banqueting-room on this great occasion was St. George’s Hall, splendid with its ceiling emblazoned with the arms of the Knights of the Garter from the institution of the order, and the portraits of our kings from James I. to George IV. At each end of the hall, buffets, seventeen feet high and forty broad, were set. They were of rich fretted Gothic framework, covered with crimson cloth, and brilliant with massive gold plate. Immediately opposite the Queen was set a pyramid of plate, its apex being the tiger’s head captured at Seringapatam, and comprising the “Iluma” of precious stones which Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General of India, presented to George IV. The table, which was laid for a hundred guests, extended the whole length of the hall. All down the centre, epergnes, vases, cups, and candelabra were ranged, the celebrated St. George’s candelabrum being opposite Her Majesty. The hall was splendidly illuminated, and two bands of the Guards discoursed sweet music from a balcony. The Yeomen of the Guard stood on duty at the entrance. The repast, which did ample justice to the merits of the Queen’s renowned cuisiniér, Francatelli, was entirely served in gold plate, and the attendance was so faultless that there was less bustle and confusion than usually attend a repast shared by a party of ten or a dozen. At a quarter to nine grace was said; and after the dessert and wine had been placed[Pg 125] on the table, the Lord Steward rose and proposed, without remark, “The Queen.” The Queen simply, when the toast had been drunk, bowed her acknowledgments. After a brief pause, the health of Prince Albert was drunk standing, as the Queen’s had been, the band playing the “Coburg March.” At half-past nine the Queen rose, and, accompanied by the Duchess of Kent, was followed by all the ladies to the drawing-room. In about twenty minutes all the gentlemen followed. The Waterloo Chamber was thrown open, and its rich historical and pictorial treasures were keenly inspected by groups of the guests. Amongst others of its chief ornaments, attention was concentrated on the swords of the Pretenders James and Charles, Prince Rupert’s coat of mail, and the magnificent shield, by Cellini, presented by Francis I. to King Henry VIII., at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. But the great treat of the evening was the appearance of Madame Rachel, who, with two or three French actors, gave morceaux from her principal impersonations. The success of her performance was the more conspicuous that it was entirely unaided by scenery, dress, or other histrionic accompaniment. A little before twelve the Queen, after addressing with the utmost grace some words of courteous appreciation to the great tragedienne, and bowing to the assembled guests, retired, leaning on her husband’s arm.
THE QUEEN IN SCOTLAND.
Christening of the Prince of Wales—Manufacturing Distress—Queen’s Efforts to alleviate it—Assesses Herself to the Income Tax—Resolves to Visit Scotland—Embarks at Woolwich—Beacon Fires in the Firth of Forth—Landing on Scottish Soil—A Disappointment—Formal Entry into Edinburgh—Richness of Historical and Ancestral Associations—The Queen on the Castle Rock—A Highland Welcome—Departure from Scotland.
The Session of 1842 was opened by the Queen in person with unusual splendour, which was enhanced by the presence of the King of Prussia, who had come over to stand sponsor to the Prince of Wales. The christening was performed on the 25th of January, and was attended with all due magnificence, and succeeded by a splendid banquet. Mr. Raikes, in his amusing, valuable journal, thus records the event:—
Tuesday, 25th.—The day of the Royal christening at Windsor. The Prince of Wales is named Albert Edward. All who have been there say that the scene was very magnificent, and the display of plate at the banquet superb. After the ceremony a silver-embossed vessel containing a whole hogshead of mulled claret was introduced, and served in bucketfuls to the company, who drank the young Prince’s health. Very few ladies were invited.
The Queen’s speech of this year noticed with deep regret the continued distress in the manufacturing districts of the country, and bore testimony to the exemplary patience and fortitude with which it had been borne.[Pg 127] Many people began once more to murmur at the continued flow of gaiety at Windsor where the young parents still seemed to experience the first thrills of transport at the birth of a son and heir. Some of the lowest class of seditious newspapers began the practice of printing in parallel columns the description of the fancy dresses at the Queen’s balls (the purchase and preparation of which must certainly have tended to alleviate the distress), &c., and reports from the pauperised districts, records of deaths from starvation, and the like. Among the unthinking classes such disloyal practices produced a very deep feeling of dissatisfaction. In the course of the year two attempts were reported as having been made upon the Queen’s life: one, however, being merely the freak of an ill-natured boy, but the other was of a much more serious description, and cost its author transportation for life. Sir Robert Peel felt it his duty to discharge the part of a faithful Minister, and to counsel his Royal mistress to lessen the gaieties of the Court, even if it were only in deference to the prejudices of the starving and maddened poor. He neither roused nor augmented her fears, but gave her the counsel which the time required. The Queen at once acted, and without taking offence, upon the Minister’s advice. At the christening of the Prince of Wales all the ladies of the Court appeared in Paisley shawls, English lace, and other articles of home manufacture. And when the christening was over a marked sobriety settled down over the Court, and continued during all the summer of 1842. Even the most querulous speedily granted that they had no reason to complain.
This change in the sentiments of the public, especially its lower and more distressed portions, was promoted and[Pg 128] accelerated by an act, equally tasteful and touching, of Her Majesty during this year. In the spring of 1842, Sir Robert Peel, now thoroughly warm in his seat as Premier, commanding a large working majority, and not yet having awakened the hostility of the decidedly Protectionist section of his followers, inaugurated that splendid series of bravely devised measures in the direction of Free Trade, of which the great Anti-Corn Law Act of four years later was, so far as he was concerned, the culmination. In 1842, Peel proposed and carried a Budget which considerably lessened the burden of Customs imposts, but the chief merit and recommendation of which consisted in the fact that it relieved the nation of the incubus of a host of very galling excise duties on such articles of common use as glass, leather, bricks, and soap. These beneficial remissions of taxation could not have been effected by him—for they entailed a heavy cost upon the revenue, already inadequate to meet the annual expenditure—but for the re-imposition of an Income Tax, a means of raising revenue which had been long disused, to the extent of sevenpence in the pound on all incomes above £150 of annual value. This, of course, did not affect the allowance made to the Sovereign. Nevertheless, Her Majesty evinced her sympathy at once with the prevailing distress and with the daring fiscal expedient of the Premier, by coming forward unsolicited to offer to receive an abatement of her income, based upon the precise scale of that imposed by Parliament upon her subjects.
Up to the Queen’s reign, the members of the House of Brunswick had never been peripatetic in their tendencies. The first two Georges had made frequent visits to their[Pg 129] patrimonial German electorate, but they evinced no desire to visit England beyond the immediate environs of London. George III. never passed out of England; George IV. visited Ireland and Scotland each on one occasion; but with these exceptions, hardly any British highways were traversed by his wheels during his reign, whether as Sovereign Regent or Regnant, except the great roads connecting his capital with Windsor, Brighton, and Newmarket. William IV. was too old when he came to the throne to make it at all probable that he would evince any taste to visit any of the outlying portions of his dominions; nor did he do so. Queen Victoria, as we have copiously seen in earlier chapters, was from her very infancy habituated to moving about from place to place, and all along she has proved herself as proud as Queen Elizabeth herself of mingling with and showing herself to her people.
For some time the Queen was understood to have contemplated a journey to the land of those Stuart ancestors by virtue of whose Tudor blood they, and the Brunswick line through them, and she through it, inherited the British crown. In the autumn of this year all seemed propitious for the journey, and it was undertaken accordingly by herself and her young husband. Their first destination was the Scottish capital, and as the railway system connecting the southern and northern extremities of the island was yet far from complete, the journey was made by water from the Thames to the Forth, the port of embarkation being Woolwich, and of debarkation, Granton, a minor harbour in the immediate neighbourhood of Edinburgh.
The expected visit was awaited and prepared for in[Pg 130] the North with the utmost eagerness of expectancy. Half Scotland seemed to have emptied itself into the metropolis to do her honour. In their preparations, burgher vied with noble, tartan-clad Highlanders with Lowlanders in their more sombre blue bonnets and hodden grey. On the 29th of August, the Queen left Windsor, and proceeded to Woolwich, where she embarked amid the acclamations of her metropolitan and Kentish subjects at an early hour of the same day. In a Royal yacht, towed by a steam ship of war, the voyage was safely effected in the fine weather and on the placid wave of early autumn. In due time the Royal squadron arrived off Dunbar, which, with the Bass Rock and Tantallon Castle, form together a fine coup-d’œil of romantic coast scenery and middle age antiquity, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth. Here it was met by large steamers filled by welcomers from Edinburgh and its neighbourhood, who greeted their illustrious visitors with loud huzzahs, and the strains of that National Anthem, which, though of English birth, was chaunted right lustily by Scottish lungs and lips. It was observed that Her Majesty, who came on board and acknowledged the vivas of her subjects, had paid the Scots the compliment of enveloping herself in a Paisley shawl; and when, a day or two later, she made her formal entry past the church sanctified by the preaching of John Knox, to the Castle, in a narrow chamber of which her unfortunate ancestor Queen Mary bore her son King James, she wore, with even more conspicuously appropriate taste, a shawl of Stuart tartan.
As she passed up the Firth, under cover of the gathering night, every peak on either side of the estuary, from[Pg 131] St. Abb’s Head, which she had left behind, away westwards to the Pentlands, the Lomonds, and the Ochils, was surmounted by a blazing beacon—a splendid sight, and stimulative by contrast to the imaginations of those who recollected to what different uses beacon-fires on Scottish hills and Scottish Border Keeps had been put in earlier days of the international relations of England and Scotland. The fiery welcome was returned from the Royal yacht, by the letting off of rockets, and the burning of blue lights.
At last the squadron came in sight in the roads before Leith, the anchor being let down—“a welcome sound,” wrote the Queen—at a quarter to one o’clock on the morning of Thursday, September the 1st. Every one of the heights on or under the domination of which Edinburgh stands, had been crowded all the previous day with tens of thousands of spectators. All at once two guns from the castle, and a signal flag hoisted from the summit of Nelson’s column, some 400 feet above the level of the sea, announced the arrival. The Queen slept and rested herself after the fatigues of her voyage on board the Royal yacht; and she took her good but inalert subjects by surprise, by effecting her landing at an hour so early on the succeeding morning, that many of them, wearied by their recent vigils, had not yet left their couches, and even the corporate dignitaries were subject to the mortification of not having the honour to receive and welcome their Queen as her foot first touched Scottish soil. In their absence, that pleasurable duty was discharged by Sir Robert Peel, and the Duke of Buccleuch, whose guest she was about to be at his palace of Dalkeith, and who had ridden immediately after[Pg 132] her carriage, as Captain-General of her body-guard of Scottish Archers, on the day on which she was crowned queen at Westminster. Sir Robert Peel told the Queen that the people were all in the highest glee and good humour, though a little disappointed at the non-arrival of the squadron the day before, as had been expected.
With the extraordinarily auspicious fatality which has made “Queen’s weather” so trite and proverbial an expression, the sun splendidly burst forth at the moment of her landing, and continued to shine throughout her progress through a portion of the New Town of Edinburgh; its bright freestone streets and terraces sparkling in the clear, sunlit air—past her ancient Palace of Holyrood, and so through fertile Lothian to the mansion of the princely head of the old Border House of the Scotts. When the customary ensign was hauled down from the top of the rugged Castle Rock, and the Royal Standard was hoisted in its place, the streets at once filled, and the loyal shouts of the crowds, who hastily assembled in no small force, sufficiently atoned for the absence of those whom the somewhat unexpected arrival balked for this one day of the delight of expressing their devotion.
The impression which her first view of Edinburgh made upon the Queen was very striking and most favourable. She thought it “beautiful, totally unlike anything else she had seen.” Even Prince Albert, a great traveller while yet in his teens, and who had visited very many great and renowned cities, also said it was unlike anything which he had witnessed. The massive stone buildings, with not a solitary brick used in their [Pg 133]construction; the great dorsal fin of the High Street; the magnificent situation of the Castle; the Calton Hill, guarded by mediæval battlements and crowned by Choragic temples, with the noble back-ground of Arthur’s Seat overtopping the whole, together impressed the youthful tourists as “forming altogether a splendid spectacle.”
As the carriages drove through the city, the Earl of Wemyss, who marched by the Queen’s side in his green uniform of a Scottish Archer of the Guard, pointed out to Her Majesty the varied objects of interest on the line of route through the eastern portions of the city to the Duke of Buccleuch’s palace of Dalkeith. When they got into the open country, she was further astonished to find that not only all the cottages, but even the fences dividing field from field, were also built of stone. The peasants by the wayside were equally objects of curiosity and interest, as they had “quite a different character from England and the English.” The close caps—Scottice, “mutches”—of the old women, and the long, flowing hair, frequently red, of the handsome girls and children, were equal novelties to the royal “Southrons.” The Prince was struck with the resemblance of the country people to Germans. Other Scottish specialties appeared at the breakfast-table at Dalkeith, in the form of oatmeal porridge and “Finnan Haddies”—the first of which, at least, found immediate favour with Her Majesty.
The grand ceremonial of entering the ancient city in state was reserved for the Saturday after the arrival; the interval having been devoted by the royal party to quiet and repose in the magnificent domain of [Pg 134]Buccleuch, and drives to objects of interest in its neighbourhood. The line of the cavalcade, on this red-letter day, was up the steep ascent of the Canongate, High Street, and Lawnmarket, from the Palace of Holyrood (which the Queen rightly pronounced “a royal-looking old place”) to the Castle which the Black Douglas scaled, where George Buchanan’s pedantic Stuart pupil was born, and from the parapets of which various and shifting prospects are to be descried, which may be equalled, but cannot be surpassed, in any portion of Her Majesty’s dominions.
It was indeed historic ground along which the Queen passed this day. Every one of the stupendous houses of eight, ten, or even more stories, which formed a mighty avenue of stone on either side of the ancient causeway along which the steeds which drew her carriage slowly and deliberately proceeded, had some tale of long gone days to tell, many of them being most intimately associated with the fortunes of her Stuart ancestors. On her way she passed the site of that tower in which Darnley, her ancestor, was blown into eternity. Ere she left her Palace of Holyrood and the adjacent ruins of the abbey which was erected by that Scottish king who built and endowed so many abbeys that his subjects piteously exclaimed that he was a “saur saunt for the Croon,” she may have seen the blood-stains of Rizzio, and the somewhat mythical portraits of the Kings of the Houses of Kenneth, Bruce, and the Stuarts. On one side of her was the old mansion of the Regent Moray, on the other the spot where, for the first and only time, the boy Francis Jeffrey set eyes upon Robert Burns. Here was the[Pg 135] ancient oaken hall where the Scottish Parliament sate, there the office of that Scottish journal of which Daniel Defoe, the staunch and loyal friend of William III., was the first editor. Here was the house in which John Knox lived and died, there the church in which he preached with such fervour for that Protestant faith, with the establishment of which in Europe both lines of her ancestors were so intimately identified. And when she arrived on the esplanade of the Castle itself, she could look across the Forth on the one side to the minor mountain which casts its morning shadow into Loch Leven, from her captivity on an islet of which Scottish Catholic gentlemen so gallantly rescued her Stuart ancestress; while immediately beneath her lay the Grassmarket—at once the Tower and the Smithfield of Scotland—where Montrose and Argyll expiated respectively their loyalty to the Stuart race, and to freedom of soul and speech.
As the cortège passed up the streets along which Prince Charlie had passed when he held court at Holyrood just ninety-seven years before, as she received at the site of the old Tolbooth the keys of the city from the Lord Provost, bending the knee beside his fellow-burghers, clad in the old costumes of the Trades, and close beside a guard of honour of Highlanders headed by the present Duke of Argyll; or as she stood surveying from the topmost battery of the citadel her fair ancestral domains of Lothian and Fife, and the distant mountains which tower o’er Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, some such proud and pathetic recollections as these must have occupied and touched the heart of the[Pg 136] youngest and the mightiest monarch in Europe. Their closer acquaintance with Edinburgh increased the mingled amazement and delight of the Queen and Prince. Prince Albert pronounced the view of it from the margin of the Firth of Forth as “fairy-like,” “what you would imagine as a thing to dream of, or to see in a picture.” He said he felt sure the Acropolis could not be finer, and the Queen at once recognised the appropriateness of the idealised metamorphosis of “Auld Reekie” (Anglice, “Old Smoky”) into “the Modern Athens.” The Leith ticket-porters, mounted on flower-decked horses, with broad, ribbon-decorated Kilmarnock bonnets, and the pretty Newhaven fishwives, with their clear, peachy complexions and Danish costumes, were objects of peculiar interest.
Space fails us to enter into details of the further incidents of this, the Queen’s first visit to her Scottish dominion. Enough to say that she received in the Highlands, where she visited in succession not a few of her oldest nobles of Gaelic and Norman descent, receptions as rapturous as that which she experienced in the Modern Athens. The welcome, if it could not be more hearty, was at least attended with more picturesque accessories in the romantic region where the dialect and the “garb of Old Gael” still to a large extent prevail. At Dupplin Castle, at Scone Palace, where her ancestors were crowned, at Blair Athole, at Taymouth, and at Drummond Castle, she was entertained with equal splendour, and with the true and special elements of “Highland Welcome.” She may be almost said to have passed through a continuous succession of[Pg 137] triumphal arches. Every chieftain brought out all his available clansmen, all in kilts, claymores, and Glengarry bonnets, to act as guards of honour. Balls, in which the national dances, performed by the best born cadets of the noble houses of whom she was the guest, constituted the chief feature, alternated with deer-stalking, for the especial behoof of the Prince; processions of boats on the lake through which rolls the Tay, a river only less rapid than the Spey; and visits to places of historic interest or romantic beauty.
The Queen was especially charmed with the beautiful situation of the ancient city of Perth, and the enthusiastic reception which the multitudes there assembled gave to her. Prince Albert, too, was delighted, and likened the appearance of the place to Basle. At Scone Palace, which is within two miles of Perth, a very natural object of peculiar interest was the mound on which all the Scottish kings had been crowned. At Dunkeld the Highlands were fairly entered; and here the Royal party were met and escorted by a guard of Athole Highlanders, armed with halberts, and headed by a piper. One of them danced the sword dance, with which the travellers were greatly amused, and others of them figured in a reel.
The longest sojourn made in the Highlands was at Taymouth, the seat of the Marquis of Breadalbane. The scenery here again revived recollections of Switzerland in the memory of Prince Albert, who was particularly prone, in this and subsequent visits to the North, to trace resemblances between its scenery and localities which he had visited in the tours of his bachelor days.[Pg 138] The reception at Taymouth was magnificent, and quite captivated the illustrious guests. The Queen wrote in her journal—
The coup d’œil was indescribable. There were a number of Lord Breadalbane’s Highlanders, all in the Campbell tartan, drawn up in front of the house, with Lord Breadalbane himself in a Highland dress at their head; a few of Sir Niel Menzies’ men (in the Menzies red and white tartan), a number of pipers playing, and a company of the 92nd Highlanders, also in kilts. The firing of the guns, the cheering of the great crowd, the picturesqueness of the dresses, the beauty of the surrounding country, with its rich back-ground of wooded hills, altogether formed one of the finest scenes imaginable. It seemed as if a great chieftain in olden feudal times was receiving his Sovereign. It was princely and romantic.
Wherever the Queen rambled during her stay by the shores of Loch Tay, she was guarded by two Highlanders, and it recalled to her mind “olden times, to see them with their swords drawn.” Walking one day with the Duchess of Norfolk, the Queen and her noble companion met “a fat, good-humoured little woman.” She cut some flowers for the ladies, and the Duchess handed to her some money, saying, “From Her Majesty.” The poor woman was perfectly astounded, but, recovering her wits, came up to the Queen, and said naïvely that “her people were delighted to see the Queen in Scotland.” Wherever the royal visitors were, or went, the inevitable strains of the bagpipes were heard. They played before the Castle at frequent intervals throughout the day, from breakfast till dinner-time, and invariably when they went in or out of doors. When rowed in boats on the lake, two pipers sat in the bows and played; and the Queen, who had grown “quite fond” of the bagpipes,[Pg 139] was reminded of the lines of Scott, with whose poems she had, from an early age, possessed the most intimate familiarity:—
“See the proud pipers in the bow,
And mark the gaudy streamers flow
From their loud chambers down, and sweep
The furrow’d bosom of the deep,
As, rushing through the lake amain,
They plied the ancient Highland strain.”
On the 13th of September the return journey from the Highlands by Stirling, the ancient Castle of which was visited, to Dalkeith Palace, had been completed. Two days later the Queen and Prince re-embarked at Granton, en route for Woolwich and Windsor.
Although a by no means excessive quantity of time—but a fortnight—was consumed in the tour, some idea of the rapidity with which distances were traversed, and the extent of ground covered, may be gathered from the fact that no fewer than 656 post-horses were employed. The Queen touched the hearts of the Highlanders—among whom Jacobitism remained, not as an element of personal devotion to a fallen house, but not the less as a deep chord of pathos and poetry—by commanding a Scottish vocalist, at a concert given in her honour at Blair Athole, to sing two of the most beloved of Jacobite songs—“Cam’ ye by Athole,” and “Wae’s me for Prince Charlie.” When she once more embarked at Granton on her homeward route, she left memories of pleasure and affection which far exceeded the intensely ardent excitement which had preceded and greeted her landing. On the last day which she spent in Scotland, the Queen[Pg 140] wrote in her journal—“This is our last day in Scotland; it is really a delightful country, and I am very sorry to leave it.” And the day after, watching its vanishing coast—“As the fair shores of Scotland receded more and more from our view, we felt quite sad that this very pleasant and interesting tour was over; but we shall never forget it.”
WHAT ENGLAND OWES TO PRINCE ALBERT.
The Prince’s Study of our Laws and Constitution—Two Misconceptions Outlived—His Versatility—First Speech an Anti-Slavery One—His Appreciation and Judicious Criticism of Art—Scientific Side of his Mind—As an Agriculturist.
It will not be undesirable at this stage of our narrative to interpose a summary compendium of some indications of the manner in which Prince Albert, or the “Prince Consort,” as he was designated by Royal Letters Patent, after 1857, discharged the high, onerous, and important duties to which his position called him. If the conduct and career of a husband be an integral and large part of a woman’s life, it is tenfold more so in the case of a woman who is also a queen, and especially a queen-regnant in and by her own right. The large and enlarging breadth of mind which the Prince soon began to display; the abundant tenderness of heart, which found at once indication and exercise in the admirable and diverse modes in which he advanced all agencies of public utility and associated benevolence; the excellent mode in which, equally as a father and a husband, he evinced the warm glow of domestic virtue which animated his bosom, and the absolute and much-wanted scientific and artistic lessons which he taught more than any other man, during his life in England, to the somewhat uncouth people of whom he became a part—all these, and other elements[Pg 142] of character and conduct, indirectly increased the growing esteem in which the Queen was held, on her own merits, by her people; for we might have had to look forward to a different national future, so far as a national future can be moulded in the sense of either making or marring, had the “father of our future kings” been other and lesser than what he was. Such a man as the Prince Consort must necessarily have wielded a very large and weighty influence upon the character of the royal lady whom he married. The history of her life, therefore, even if it were traced within narrower limits than those within whose compression our task must be discharged, would be insufficiently delineated without the introduction of such episodical but most relevant matter as that to which this chapter is briefly dedicated.
Almost the first task which the Prince Consort undertook when he came amongst us was to set himself to an assiduous study of our laws and institutions. He secured the services of a most competent instructor in themes so important to one who stood so near the throne, in the person of the late Mr. William Selwyn, Q.C. Mr. Selwyn was a sound jurist, and under his guidance the Prince read such works as Blackstone, De Lolme, Hallam, Bentham, and Mill. He proved himself an apt student, for he had the capacity for study eminently developed; and, besides, his position was one of singular difficulty and delicacy. He stood so near to the throne, amongst a people, too, traditionally jealous of aliens, and especially of aliens in high places, that any utterance he might be called upon to make would be considered as almost, if not quite, emanating from the throne itself. Although a certain cabinet intrigue, and one rare expression of his own—not[Pg 143] so much unguarded in itself, as wanting in explicitness, and capable of a certain misconstruction—did, on two several occasions, provoke in certain quarters something approaching to national disfavour, he soon outlived the misconception; and the universal sentiment of the people came round to the conviction that the Prince was faithful and loyal to the constitution to which he had sworn fidelity; nay more, that he had fairly caught, apprehended, and absorbed into his being the very genius and spirit of the English race.
The first speech the Prince made in England was at an anti-slavery meeting; the last at the opening of an international statistical congress. The former was delivered during the first summer of his married life. It is so brief, and it gives, as it were, so thoroughly the key-note of his character, that our readers will thank us for giving it entire:—
I have been induced to preside at the meeting of this society from a conviction of its paramount importance to the great interests of humanity and justice. I deeply regret that the benevolent and persevering exertions of England to abolish that atrocious traffic in human beings (at once the desolation of Africa and the blackest stain upon civilised Europe) have not as yet led to any satisfactory conclusion. But I sincerely trust that this great country will not relax in its efforts until it has finally, and for ever, put an end to a state of things so repugnant to the spirit of Christianity and the best feelings of our nature. Let us, therefore, trust that Providence will prosper our exertions in so holy a cause, and that (under the auspices of our Queen and her Government) we may, at no distant period, be rewarded by the accomplishment of the great and humane object for the promotion of which we have this day met.
We have already remarked the wide range of Prince Albert’s endeavours, study, devotion, and consequent usefulness. He presided at dinners of the Literary Fund, and[Pg 144] of the Royal Academy; at the Trinity House most frequently, and at many agricultural meetings. Two of the best and most pregnant with good of his addresses, were delivered at the meetings of associations designed respectively for the better housing of labourers, and in behalf of the large and sorely tempted class of domestic servants. Now he presided at the Bicentenary of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy; again at the two hundredth anniversary of one of our most illustrious regiments of Foot Guards. On art, as all were prepared to expect, he delivered ripe words of wisdom at the Royal Academy in Trafalgar Square, and in laying the foundation in the capital of his wife’s Stuart ancestors of a new National Gallery for her Scottish subjects. Against the expectation, and to the loudly expressed surprise of all, save those who knew him thoroughly, he made a most admirable survey of the sciences and their uses, at one of the last meetings held ere his death, of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Of art he was a judicious critic, as well as a munificent patron. It was at his special wish and option that the savant Lyon Playfair was made one of his Equerries; and that a residence in Hampton Court Palace was put at the disposal of Michael Faraday.
How much of mingled love for art and artists, and at the same time of criticism most kindly and sagacious, is to be found in these brief sentences, extracted from his great speech at the Royal Academy dinner:—
An unkind word of criticism passes like a cold blast over their tender shoots, and shrivels them up, checking the flow of the sap, which was rising to produce, perhaps, multitudes of flowers and fruits. But still criticism is absolutely necessary to the development of art,[Pg 145] and the injudicious praise of an inferior work becomes an insult to superior genius. In this respect, our times are peculiarly favourable when compared with those when Madonnas were painted in the seclusion of convents; for we have now on the one hand the eager competition of a vast array of artists of every degree of talent and skill, and on the other, as judge, a great public, for the greater part wholly uneducated in art, and thus led by professional writers who often strive to impress the public with a great idea of their own artistic knowledge, by the merciless manner in which they treat works which cost those who produced them the highest efforts of mind or feeling.
And again, as a companion and worthy picture—which is none the less, but all the more, worthy of hanging along with that we have just presented, that the great truth it teaches is presented with such lucid simplicity—take these sentences explanatory of the scope and end of such institutions as the British Association for the Advancement of Science, delivered by him as its President, at the 1859 Congress at Aberdeen:—
If the activity of this Association ever found, or could find its personification in one individual—its incarnation as it were—this had been found in that distinguished and revered philosopher who has been removed from amongst us in his ninetieth year, within the last few months. Alexander Von Humboldt ever strove after dominion over that universality of human knowledge which stands in need of thoughtful government and direction to preserve its integrity. He strove to tie up the fasces of scientific knowledge, to give them strength in unity. He treated all scientific men as members of one family, enthusiastically directing, fostering, and encouraging inquiry, where he saw either the want of or the willingness for it. His protection of the young and ardent student led many to success in their pursuits. His personal influence with the courts and governments of most countries in Europe, enabled him to plead the cause of science in a manner which made it more difficult to refuse than to grant what he requested. All lovers of Science deeply mourn for the loss of such a man. Gentlemen, it is a singular coincidence, that this very day on which we are here assembled, and are thus giving expression to our admiration of him, should be the anniversary of his birth.
[Pg 146]The Queen, who was staying at Balmoral, was very anxious about the manner in which her husband should pass the very severe ordeal of delivering an address to the assembled men of science. She recorded her high gratification at learning by telegram that “Albert’s reception was admirable, and that all was going off as well as possible. Thank God!” She invited the savans, to a fête at her Highland home; they accepted the invitation in great numbers; and “the philosophers,” of whom Her Majesty was not a little, and rather comically, afraid, were not only entertained with creature comforts, but the somewhat novel combination was presented of Owen, Brewster, Sabine, and Murchison, with their brethren of lesser renown, standing as spectators of contests of strength between athletes of the Grant, Farquharson, Duff, and other clans. Some of the more distinguished guests remained over night, and at dinner they rejoiced the Queen’s heart by “speaking in very high terms of my beloved Albert’s speech, the good it had done, and the general satisfaction it had caused.”
Probably the capacity of all others in which the Prince became most generally familiar to the nation, was that of a practical, improving, scientific agriculturist; and we use this word in its twofold sense, as embracing the growing of crops and the rearing of live stock. Almost from the outset of his career amongst us he commenced a series of scientific agricultural experiments on the farms in Windsor Park. He renovated the agriculture of the Park, as much as he confessedly did its landscape gardening. He became a constant and most successful exhibitor of live domestic edible animals at the great agricultural shows; his example in this field having been followed[Pg 147] since his death, to the great gratification of the agricultural interest, both by his widow and his eldest son; and, especially in the case of Her Majesty, with marked success. As a high and eminent authority on the subject has admirably put it—
His was no merely idle, passing patronage or casual aid, but it was rather a pursuit he delighted in, and one he followed out with equal energy and advantage. The most practical man could not go that pleasant round from the Flemish farm to the Norfolk, and so back again by the Home and the Dairy, without learning something wherever he went.
We must deny ourselves the pleasure of aught but passing reference to the admirable manner in which he discharged his academic duties as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, which post he held from 1845 till his death, and about which we say enough when we remind or inform the reader that it was such men as Professor Sedgwick, the Vice-chancellor, who spoke of the exercise of his duties in this capacity in terms of the highest honour and estimation. Similar were his services to such noble institutions as Eton and Wellington Colleges, in both of which he offered prizes expressly calculated to encourage the pursuit of those studies which had been, or were most likely to be, ignored in their several cases. Horticulture, art exhibitions, the National Portrait Gallery, the Society of Arts, societies for improving the general condition and the housing of the labouring classes, mechanics’ institutions—each of these constitutes a theme most pregnant and suggestive in connection with the Prince’s name and memory. But we can do no more than recite and dismiss the bald catalogue of topics. Reserving for the appropriate chronological occasion some[Pg 148] brief remarks upon the character of the Prince as a private man, as contrasted with his aspects of character as a citizen and public benefactor, to which we have at present confined ourselves, we feel that we cannot better conclude than by condensing his opinions delivered in an address to the annual meeting of the Servants’ Provident Benevolent Society, in 1849, in which the whole plan and doctrine by which he believed all really useful associated benevolence ought to be regulated was summed up. His view was that no such organisation was founded upon a right principle which did not require every man, by personal exertion, and by his own choice, to work out his own happiness. Benevolence he held to be not really such unless it stimulated providence, self-denial, and perseverance. He used special words of warning against those so frequent lotteries of uncertain and precarious advantages—“really a species of gambling”—expensive convivial meetings, balloting for prizes, and electioneering contests on a small scale. “Let them always bear in mind,” he proceeded to say, “that their savings are capital, that capital will only return a certain interest, and that any advantage offered beyond that interest has to be purchased at a commensurate risk of the capital itself.”
Such is a view, but all too summary and inadequate, of some of the obligations which the English, as his fellow-citizens, owed to that Prince whose life was so intertwined with and influential on that of their Sovereign.
FOREIGN TRAVEL AND HOME VISITS.
Visit to King Louis Philippe at Eu—A Loyal Corporation—Splendid Reception of the Queen in France—Anecdote of the Queen’s Regard for Prince Albert—Visit of the Czar Nicholas—Home Life in Scotland—Visit to Germany—Illuminations of the Rhine—A Rural Fête at Coburg.
In August, 1843, the Queen and Prince Albert made a yachting excursion round portions of the south coast and the Isle of Wight. Thence they steamed over to Treport, on the French coast, the nearest port to the Chateau d’Eu, a rural residence of Louis Philippe. On the arrival of the Queen and Prince from Windsor at Southampton, they were met at the end of the pier by the Duke of Wellington and other noble and official personages. It rained heavily, and as there was not sufficient covering for the stage intended to run on to the yacht Victoria and Albert, the members of the Corporation, like so many Raleighs, stripped off their red gowns in a moment, and the pathway was covered for Her Majesty’s use, so that Queen Victoria, like Queen Elizabeth, walked dry-footed to her vessel. The undergraduates at Cambridge acted precisely similarly on the occasion of a visit in wet weather by the Queen and Prince to that university in this year.
The subsequent visit to France was wholly unexpected in England; and it was even said, and with some show of truth, that the Ministers were unaware of the intention.[Pg 150] Of course we cannot speak with any certainty, but it seems but too likely that Louis Philippe intrigued to secure the aid, or at least the condonation, of the Queen of England in those astute enterprises which his busy brain was even now concocting, with which the phrases “Pritchard and Tahiti,” and the “Spanish Marriages” will ever remain associated, and which ultimately, and retributively, cost him his throne. Mr. Raikes, who, be it remembered, was the intimate and bosom friend of the Duke of Wellington, then a Minister of England, has at this date the following entry in his Journal, which was published in 1857, and is an acknowledged, and if not absolutely an indisputable, yet a most weighty authority:—
Tuesday, 19th.—Much conversation after dinner about the Queen’s visit to Eu. I said, that the day before I left Paris, Kisseleff, the Russian Minister, scouted the idea of this visit, and betted that it would never take place. Lord Canning remarked, as a singular coincidence, that Brunow, the Russian Minister in London, asserted positively, on the very morning that the Queen embarked at Southampton, that she had no intention of going to Eu. They both spoke, I suppose, as they wished.
This, it may be said, is mere club gossip. Not so what we are about to quote, and which was written under the Duke of Wellington’s roof:—
Saturday, 23rd.—I went down to Walmer Castle, and found the Duke walking with Mr. Arbuthnot on the ramparts, or, as it is called, the platform, which overlooks the sea.... After the company had departed at ten o’clock, I sat up with the Duke and Arbuthnot till twelve o’clock, talking on various topics.... I see that the Government was evidently opposed to the Queen’s visit to Eu. It was a wily intrigue, managed by Louis Philippe, through the intervention of his daughter, the Queen of the Belgians, during her frequent visits to Windsor with King Leopold, and was hailed by him with extreme joy, as the first admission of the King of the Barricades within[Pg 151] the pale of legitimate sovereigns. The Duke said, “I was never let into the secret, nor did I believe the report then in circulation, till at last they sent to consult my opinion as to forming a regency during the Queen’s absence. I immediately referred to precedents as the only proper guide. I told them that George I., George II. (George III. never went abroad), and George IV. had all been obliged to appoint councils of regency; that Henry VIII., when he met Francis I. at Ardres, was then master of Calais, as also when he met Charles V. at Gravelines; so that, in these instances, Calais being a part of his dominions, he hardly did more than pass his frontier—not much more than going from one county to the next. Upon this I decided that the Queen could not quit this country without an Act of Regency. But she consulted the crown lawyers, who decided that it was not necessary, as courtiers would do.” I myself (resumes Raikes) did not believe in her going till two days before she went. Peel persisted afterwards that he had told me of it; but I knew I never heard it, and it was not a thing to have escaped me if I had.
As for the reception at the Château d’Eu itself, it was of the most splendid character. One state ceremonial, however, is so very like another, that after those, the descriptions of which we have already furnished, a recital of the gay doings at Eu would hardly be palatable. The purport of the whole may be summed up very briefly. The French monarch endeavoured to allure the Queen into compliance with his wishes, by every seduction which nature and art, and the most refined and gallant courtesy, could supply. Everything that wealth, luxury, and taste could furnish was to be found amid scenes of more than royal magnificence, o’ershadowed by elms that dated back to the times of Henri Quatre.
But there was business to be done, and the Queen was fortunate in having with her such trusty counsellors as Lords Aberdeen and Liverpool. A compact about the Spanish marriages was then and there made between France and England; a compact for the terms of which[Pg 152] we are dependent, not alone upon English state papers, but upon the unimpeachable testimony of MM. Guizot and Regnault. As the starting-point of the one court was that the Queen of Spain should marry a Prince of the House of Coburg, and of the other that she should marry a Prince of the reigning French house, of course no settlement could be come to except by an unequivocal compromise. Thus did Lord Aberdeen and M. Guizot arrange it:—The King of France renounced all pretensions, on the part of any of his sons, to the hand of the Queen of Spain. It was stipulated that the Queen should choose her husband from the princely descendants of Philip V.; this stipulation excluding the dreaded competition of a Coburg. As to the projected marriage of the Duc de Montpensier, the son of Louis Philippe, with the Infanta Donna Maria, sister of the Queen of Spain, Louis Philippe agreed that it should not take place “till the Queen was married and had had children.” On these conditions, the Queen of England and her counsellors waived all objections to the marriage of the Duc de Montpensier. Louis Philippe kept his word by having his son married to the Infanta on the very same day, and at the same altar, as that on which her elder sister the Queen was married.
In the summer of this year, the Princess Augusta of Cambridge, the Queen’s first cousin, was married to the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The following extract from the diary of Mr. Raikes will be admitted to be far from the least amusing and characteristic anecdote of the Queen which we present in these pages:—
Tuesday, 26th September.—This morning at breakfast, the Duke said to me, “Did you hear what happened at the wedding?” [meaning[Pg 153] that of the Princess Augusta of Cambridge]. Replying in the negative, he continued, “When we proceeded to the signatures, the King of Hanover was very anxious to sign before Prince Albert, and when the Queen approached the table, he placed himself by her side, watching his opportunity. She knew very well what he was about, and just as the Archbishop was giving her the pen, she suddenly dodged around the table, placed herself next to the Prince, then quickly took the pen from the Archbishop, signed and gave it to Prince Albert, who also signed next, before it could be prevented. The Queen was also very anxious to give the precedence at Court to King Leopold before the King of Hanover, and she consulted me about it, and how it should be arranged. I told Her Majesty that I supposed it should be settled as we did at the congress of Vienna. “How was that,” said she, “by first arrival?” “No ma’am,” said I, “alphabetically, and then, you know, B comes before H.” This pleased her very much, and it was done.
In June, 1844, the Queen was visited by her handsome and colossal godfather, the Czar Nicholas of All the Russias. The Queen received him with great magnificence, and there was a splendid series of entertainments at Windsor. The Czar made himself immensely popular with the female sex, by his magnificent gifts of jewels to the ladies of the Court; with the sterner sex, by the gift of a cup of uncommon splendour, to be annually run for at Ascot. “Every one who approached him,” says Sir Archibald Alison, “was struck by the manly dignity of his figure, his noble and serene countenance, and the polished courtesy of his manner, which threw a lustre even over the stately halls of Windsor.”
In September of the same year the Queen renewed her acquaintance with Scotland and the Scots; this time again enjoying the ducal hospitality of Blair Athole. This visit was entirely dissociated from all State paraphernalia. The Queen was up before the sun. The mists were hardly cleared away ere she and the Prince were to[Pg 154] be seen walking in the grounds. They were generally accompanied by the Princess Royal, mounted on a Shetland pony. The Queen’s piper played under her bed-room window at dawn, and every morning a bunch of heather, with some icy-cold water from the celebrated spring in Glen Tilt, was laid on her dressing-table. One morning a lady, plainly dressed, left the Castle; who, though observed by the Highland guard on duty, was allowed to pass unnoticed, until after she had proceeded a considerable distance. But somebody having discovered that it was the Queen, a party of Highlanders turned out as a royal body-guard. She, however, signified her wish to dispense with their services, and they all returned to their stations. The Queen, meanwhile, moved onward through the Castle grounds alone, until she reached the lodge, the temporary residence of Lord and Lady Glenlyon, where, upon calling, with the intention, it was understood, of making some arrangements as to a preconcerted excursion to the Falls of Bruar, she was informed that his lordship had not yet arisen. The surprise of the servant may be conceived when Her Majesty announced who was to be intimated as having called upon his lordship. On her return, having taken a different route, and finding herself bewildered by the various roads which intersect the grounds in every direction, she asked some reapers to direct her to the Castle by the nearest way. They, not being aware to whom they spoke, immediately did so, by directing her to go through one of the parks, and across a paling which lay before her, and which she at once passed, and reached the Castle, a good deal amused, doubtless, with her morning’s excursion. In 1847 the Queen visited, for the first time, the Western Isles and Hebrides. In 1848 she[Pg 155] rented Balmoral, which she shortly afterwards purchased, and from the date of its acquisition it has been her place of regular resort for at least one period of every year.
On the 9th of August, 1845, the Queen and Prince Albert embarked at Woolwich to visit the land of her maternity and his natal spot. In the Belgian and Prussian territories, and in the Duchy of Coburg itself, they were rapturously welcomed. At Bonn, they were serenaded by a monster orchestra, consisting of no fewer than sixty military bands. At the same city they assisted at the inauguration of the statue of Beethoven. The same evening they witnessed at Cologne an illumination and pyrotechnic display which turned the Rhine into a feu-de-joie. As darkness closed in, the dim and fetid city began to put forth buds of light; lines of twinkling brightness darted, like liquid gold and silver, from pile to pile, then along the famous bridge of boats, across the river, up the masts of the shipping, and all abroad on the opposite bank. Rockets now shot from all parts of the horizon. The royal party embarked in a steamer at St. Tremond, and glided down the river; as they passed, the banks blazed with fireworks and musketry. At their approach they glared with redoubled light; and, being suspended, let the vessel pass to Cologne, whose cathedral burst forth a building of light, every detail of the architecture being made out in delicately coloured lamps—pinkish, with an underglow of orange. A few days afterwards the Queen steamed up the Rhine. At Stoltzenfelz there was another magnificent illumination and display of fireworks. The whole river, both its banks, its crags, ravines, and ruins, were simultaneously lighted up; showers of rockets and other fireworks [Pg 156]besprinkled the firmament, while repeated salvoes of artillery called the grandeur of resonant sound to the aid of visible beauty.
At Coburg the Queen, as might be supposed, was still more cordially welcomed than at any of her previous stopping places. She and the Prince stopped at the Castle of Rosenau, and they occupied the room in which he had been born. A magnificent stag-hunt was got up for their entertainment; but what pleased the Queen most was being present at a festival entitled “The Feast of Gregorius.” This was a species of carnival, in which the burghers and rustics, their wives and children, disguised in masks, indulged in innocent and exuberant gaiety. The Queen and her relatives freely mixed with the revellers. She talked to the children, to their great astonishment, “in their own language.” Tired of dancing and processions, and freed from all awe by the ease of their illustrious visitors, the children took to romps, “thread-my-needle,” and other pastimes, and finally were well pelted by the royal circle with bon-bons, flowers, and cakes.
THE QUEEN IN IRELAND.
First Visit to Ireland—Rapturous Reception at Cork—Queenstown so Denominated—Enthusiasm at Dublin—Its Graceful Recognition by the Queen—Visit to the Dublin Exhibition—Encouragement of Native Industry—Visit to the Lakes of Killarney—The Whirligig of Time.
For twelve years after her accession to the throne, the Queen was a personal stranger to the shores of Erin. Amongst the numerous fruits of the tranquillity restored to Ireland, after the disturbances and sedition which had culminated in the “Young Ireland” rising of 1848, was a visit paid by the Queen to her subjects on the west of St. George’s Channel in the autumn of 1849. Immediately after the prorogation of Parliament, the Queen and Prince Albert proceeded to Cowes, where a Royal squadron was ready to receive them. Under its escort, and being accompanied by their two eldest children, they steered for Cork. The Queen selected as the first spot of Irish ground on which to land, the port which, up to the date of her disembarkation, had been known as the Cove of Cork. She gave a command that, in commemoration of the circumstance, the Cove should thenceforth be designated Queenstown. Having re-embarked, the Royal party steamed up the beautiful bay to the city of Cork itself, where a magnificent reception awaited them. The squadron proceeded at a slow[Pg 158] rate. In spite of its arrival at a much earlier date than had been anticipated, the news spread like wildfire, and the country people assembled in prodigious numbers on the shores of the Cove, which were crowded with multitudes of excited Celts, whose wild shouts, mingled with the firing of cannon and small arms, and the ringing of bells, made the whole scene animated beyond description. From Cork, the Queen proceeded to Dublin. There her reception was described by an eye-witness as “a sight never to be forgotten.”
The Queen, turning from side to side, bowed low repeatedly. Prince Albert shared in and acknowledged the plaudits of the people; while the Royal children were objects of universal attention and admiration. Her Majesty seemed to feel deeply the warmth of her reception. She paused at the end of the platform for a moment, and again making her acknowledgments, was hailed with a tremendous cheer as she entered the terminus of the short railway line which connects Kingston with Dublin. On her departure, a few days later, an incident still more gratifying to the Irish people occurred. As the Royal yacht approached the extremity of the pier near the lighthouse, where the people were most thickly congregated, and who were cheering enthusiastically, the Queen suddenly left the two Ladies-in-waiting with whom she was conversing, ran with agility along the deck, and climbed the paddle-box to join Prince Albert, who did not notice her till she was nearly at his side. Reaching out to him, and taking his arm, she waved her hand to the people on the piers. She appeared to give some order to the[Pg 159] captain: the paddles immediately ceased to move, and the vessel merely floated on. The Royal Standard was lowered in courtesy to the thousands cheering on shore, and this stately obeisance was repeated five times.
This gracious and well-timed visit to Ireland was a very significant proof of the Royal confidence in the unshaken allegiance of the bulk of the Irish people; and it likewise showed a just appreciation of the prudent energy and humane moderation with which her Ministers had so fortunately composed the recent unhappy tumults. Nearly thirty years had elapsed since a British sovereign had appeared in Ireland; and between the visit of George IV. and that of Queen Victoria, there was in common only the circumstance that both were royal visits. George, as King of Ireland, in 1821, was not the king of a free nation; the victory of civil and religious liberty had yet to be achieved for and by the Irish; a minority engrossed the national Government and monopolised its emoluments of every degree; the very existence of the people as a people had not been recognised, and the King himself was peculiarly and bitterly identified with the faction which held the race and their creed in thraldom. Thus, in 1821, the Crown of England possessed for Ireland little lustre or utility, nor did it evoke any well-grounded loyalty and devotion from its people.
Queen Victoria and her visit, on the contrary, represented those popular principles and sympathies which are the brightest jewels of the British Crown, and are now set firmly in it for ever. Her visit, at once august and affectionate, was a visit to a nation which was not only loyal but free. “And joy came well in[Pg 160] such, a needful time.” The joy was exuberant and universal. As the loyalty was rendered to a young Queen, it partook of the romantic and strictly national nature of gallantry. To witness that joy must have been the fittest punishment for the disaffected.
“We do not remember,” says an authority not given to rhapsody or exaggeration, “in the chronicles of royal progresses, to have met with any description of a scene more splendid, more imposing, more joyous, or more memorable, than the entry of the Queen into the Irish capital.” The houses were absolutely roofed and walled with spectators. They were piled throng above throng, till their occupants clustered like bees about the vanes and chimney tops. The noble streets of Dublin seemed to have been removed, and built anew of Her Majesty’s lieges. The squares resembled the interiors of crowded amphitheatres. Facades of public buildings were formed for the day of radiant human faces. Invention exhausted itself in preparing the language of greeting, and the symbols of welcome. For miles the chariot of the gay and gratified Sovereign passed under parti-coloured (not party-coloured) streamers, waving banners, festal garlands, and triumphal arches. The latter seemed constructed of nothing else than solid flowers, as if the hands of Flora herself had reared them. At every appropriate point jocund music sent forth strains of congratulation; but banners, flowers, arches, and music were all excelled by the jubilant shouts which tore the empyrean, loud, clear, and resonant, not only above drum and trumpet, but above even the saluting thunders of the fleet.
Perhaps, apart from the mere loyal enthusiasm of the[Pg 161] occasion, the most important and significant incident of the visit was the following. It did not fail to be remarked that the first institution which Her Majesty visited in the capital was the central establishment of the Irish National Schools—the first-fruits of Irish liberty, and the noblest possession of the Irish people. The Queen knew that in these excellent schools the youth of all persuasions were trained together, not in the love and pursuit of knowledge alone, but in the habit of tolerance and the spirit of charity. The Queen, by this visit, passed her personal approval and sanction upon a system which is equally the antithesis of sectarian discord and the promoter of religious independence. Here, also, she discovered (or already knew, as was much more likely) that there was imparted the most useful, solid, and practical instruction, one of a character most precisely adapted to the wants, pursuits, interests, and occupations of the classes in whose behalf it was devised. In her survey and inspection of the Normal Schools, the Queen was attended by the Protestant and the Romanist Archbishops, and the representatives of other Christian denominations, friendly to the great scheme, stood beside and around her. That quite as much importance and significance as we have accorded to it was assigned to this visit of the Queen to the Normal National Schools, sufficiently appears from these closing sentences of the Report of the Irish Education Commissioners for 1849:—
We cannot conclude our Report for 1849 without alluding with pride and gratitude to the visit with which our Model Schools were honoured on the 7th of August, by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and by her Royal Consort, Prince Albert, accompanied by your Excellency.[Pg 162] We are convinced that this visit, so promptly and cordially made, has left an indelible impression upon the hearts of the poor of Ireland, for whose benefit our system has been established; and that they will ever regard the compliment as the most appropriate and decisive that could have been paid by Her Majesty to themselves. All reflecting men, whether friends or opponents of our institution, have not failed to see the importance of the step. By the country at large it has been hailed as an eminent proof of Her Majesty’s wisdom and goodness, and as peculiarly worthy of the daughter of that illustrious Prince who was the ardent advocate of the education of the poor, when denounced by many as a dangerous novelty; and of their united education on just and comprehensive principles, when most men regarded it as impracticable.
Four years later, when the first International Exhibition was held at Dublin, the Queen renewed her acquaintance with her Irish subjects. Making a somewhat lengthened stay at the vice-regal residence, she charmed the people by the freedom with which she mingled amongst them, and by the special attention and the bounteous patronage which she bestowed upon the little-developed but beautiful specimens of their indigenous textile industries in the Exhibition building. A third and a much more prolonged visit was made in the autumn of 1861, the Queen having honoured Lord Castlerosse and Mr. Herbert of Muckross, two gentlemen whose seats and demesnes are situate on the shores of the beauteous Lakes of Killarney, by accepting their hospitable invitations. Over the lakes, their islets, and their surrounding mountains and mountain passes, the Queen roved as freely and unrestrainedly as was her wont in the retreats in which she had year after year sojourned, after the turmoil of the London season, in the Scottish Highlands. It was observed with pleasure that, amongst other indications of change which the whirligig of time had brought round,[Pg 163] Mr. James O’Connell, the brother of the “Liberator,” dined more than once with Her Majesty at the tables of her noble and gentle hosts; and the hounds that forced a stag to take to the Lake—one of the immemorial sports associated with Killarney—formed a portion of the pack which belonged to his two sons.
THE WORLD’S CONGRESS OF INDUSTRY.
Prince Albert the Inaugurator of International Exhibitions—Proposes, Unsuccessfully, his Scheme to the Government—To the Society of Arts, Successfully—First Steps towards Realisation—Objections to be Met—Perseverance of the Prince—The Royal Commission—The Prince’s Speech at York—The Opening Ceremony—The Royal Procession.
As early as 1848 Prince Albert submitted to the Government a proposal to establish an exhibition of works of industry in this country; but the members of the Government could not be induced to afford to it any of that encouragement which it was sought to obtain. Despairing of acquiring assistance in this quarter, but hopeful, courageous, and unbaffled, the Prince, who was President of the Society of Arts, in the following year betook himself to that more likely and congenial quarter. Not content, however, with following in the wake of previous Expositions which had been held in Paris and elsewhere, he suggested the happy idea of so extending its range as to include within it the works of industry and the art treasures of all lands. He convened on his own responsibility a meeting at Buckingham Palace, on the 30th of June, 1849, where he proposed that the Exhibition should be divided into four sections: the first being raw materials and produce illustrative of the natural productions[Pg 165] in which human industry is employed; the second, machinery for agricultural, manufacturing, engineering, and other purposes, and mechanical inventions illustrative of the agents which human ingenuity brings to bear upon the products of nature; the third, manufactures illustrative of the results produced by the operation of human industry upon natural produce; the fourth, sculpture, models, and the plastic arts generally, illustrative of the skill displayed in such applications of human industry.
When this proposal of a display so novel was first made, there existed no public enthusiasm to welcome the daring scheme, and all were in utter ignorance of those mechanical means of accomplishing it which to the present generation are so simple and obvious. It was met by countless cavils and objections without end. But the Prince had insight enough to discriminate between the real body of public opinion, lethargic and slow to move, yet ductile and malleable, and the artificial clamour of the marplots. Fortunately for the success of the great enterprise, the Prince possessed within himself the happiest combination of the highest station with those indomitable qualities of hopeful perseverance which were necessary to overcome the innumerable impediments which threatened more than once to mar the success of the great work. He succeeded in getting associated with him an active body of Commissioners, who, encouraged by the untiring industry which their illustrious President displayed, persevered in their work; and one by one the practical difficulties disappeared before the clear and vigorous intellect which the Prince brought to bear upon their discussions.
[Pg 166]But he remained, indeed, the facile princeps in maturing, as he had been in designing, the scheme. This is no mere language of eulogy, for the records of the Commissioners of the Exhibition have placed in print undoubted proofs that equally the completion with the progress, and the progress quite as much as the origin, of the Exhibition of 1851, were mainly due to the large conception and wise foresight of the Prince Consort. The public at the time knew but little, and many of its constituent atoms know but little to this day, of the amount of anxious thought and labour which he devoted to the success of the great undertaking that made the year 1851 memorable as a new starting-point in the industrial and social history of the world. One important point, apart altogether from his personal merits, must never be lost sight of. His own high name and his close relation to the Sovereign, added a lustre to the Royal Commission which would otherwise have been totally lacking, and gave ground for that confidence to foreign powers which they displayed so signally and with so little stint.
At a banquet held at York about six months before the Exhibition opened, the Prince in a long address, in which he replied to the toast of his health, indicated, though most modestly and unconsciously, at once the arduous nature of his preliminary labours and the zeal with which he pursued them. In the name of the Commissioners, who had been invited to the banquet en masse, he thanked his hosts for the proof thereby made plain of their earnest and combined zeal in the cause of the approaching Exhibition. He rejoiced that it was not a mere impulse of momentary enthusiasm which they[Pg 167] evinced, but a spirit of steady perseverance and sustained effort, and he assured his auditors that the spirit of active preparation and hopeful faith was abroad in the country. Of this, he said, he was confident, on the ground of information which reached him from all quarters. And he added, and the event proved him to be right, his own personal conviction that the works in preparation would be such as to dispel any apprehension about the position which British industry would maintain. Of his brother Commissioners he spoke with loyal and chivalrous fervour. He thanked, in their name, the public for their uninterrupted confidence in those who were responsible for the management of the scheme; and stated that there had been no difference of opinion between the central and the local committees, which had not, upon personal consultation and open discussion vanished, and given way to agreement and identity of purpose. So much for hope: the test of fruition had yet to come.
At length the great event to which the whole civilised world had been looking forward for eighteen months with mingled interest and curiosity—the opening of the great congress of industry and art—was accomplished with a pomp and solemnity of ceremonial suitable to the dignity of the occasion, and the important social interests which it involved. Spite of all predictions to the contrary—spite of the faint-hearted forebodings which the wild confusion of the interior of the building in the last days of April excused, if it did not justify—the building was ready and furnished with the world’s wares at the appointed time. At two o’clock on the last day of April the building was cleared by police and guardsmen of all[Pg 168] exhibitors and their assistants, and the preparations for the opening day, already partially made, were pursued with the utmost zeal and vigour.
Never dawned a brighter morning than that of the May Day which succeeded. The sky was clear and blue, the air as cool, crisp, and genial as a poet or artist could wish, and the sun came forth in undimmed splendour. London, reinforced by a multitude of visitors, was early astir and afoot. At six the Park gates were opened, and through them at once commenced to pour carriages from all parts of the metropolis and its neighbourhood, filled with gaily attired courtiers, cits, and provincials. The line of route was kept by mounted soldiers and police; but their task was rendered almost perfunctory, so fully did all appear animated with the one desire to signalise this truly popular ceremonial with generous and kindly feeling, and a respect for the rights and duties of one another. The only houses from which a sight could be got of the royal procession were those at Grosvenor Gate and at Hyde Park Corner. These were crowded with well-dressed persons, of whom ladies formed the majority, up to the very roofs. The roofs of Apsley House and the park-keeper’s lodge were similarly tenanted. The windows of Buckingham Palace, which had recently been new fronted, were filled with eager spectators, chiefly members of the Household, their relatives and friends. The centre balcony was occupied by the younger princes and princesses, attended by several ladies.
Precisely at eleven the Life Guards commenced to widen the path for the procession. At half-past eleven, the band of the regiment playing “God save the Queen,” the royal cortège set forth, amid the cheers of the vast[Pg 169] assembled multitude. The procession was of anything but an ostentatious character. The eight carriages of which it was composed were drawn by but two horses each. There were no Gentlemen-Ushers, Grooms, or Yeomen of the Guard. Trumpeters there were, but their trumpets were silent. At a quarter to twelve the procession reached the northern entrance of the Palace, and the Queen alighted amid the strains of the National Anthem, a salvo of artillery, and the lusty cheers of enormous multitudes on both sides of the Serpentine.
Meanwhile, from nine o’clock, the appointed hour of opening, the building had been rapidly filling, all the visitors being remarkably well dressed, and a large majority of them ladies. “The first coup d’œil of the building, on entering the nave, was grand and gorgeous in the extreme; the vast dimensions of the structure, the breadth of light, partially subdued and agreeably mellowed in the nave by the calico coverings placed over the roof, whilst the arched transept soared boldly into the clear arch of heaven, courting, admitting, and distributing the full effulgence of the noon-day sun; the bright and striking colours and forms of the several articles in rich manufactured goods, works in sculpture, and other objects displayed by the exhibitors, dissimilar and almost incongruous in their variety, were blent into an harmonious picture of immense grandeur by the attendant circumstances of space and light to which we have just alluded; and the busy hum and eager and excited movements of the assembled thousands infused the breath of life into a picture, which, at the period of the crowning incident of the day, became truly sublime.”
By eleven o’clock, after which hour none of the general[Pg 170] public could be admitted, the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, in their gay uniforms, had taken up their places in the rear of the dais set for the Queen. This dais was covered with a splendid carpet, which had been specially worked for the occasion by 150 ladies, and on this was placed a magnificent chair of state, covered with a cloth of crimson and gold. High over head was suspended an octagon canopy, trimmed with blue satin, and draperies of blue and white. The trumpeters and heralds were in readiness to proclaim the arrival of the Queen, and Sir George Smart stood, baton in hand, perched up in a small rostrum, “ready to beat time to ‘God save the Queen’ for the five hundredth time in his life.” The Commissioners of the Exhibition and the foreign ambassadors stood in the entrance hall, prepared to pay their respects to Her Majesty on her arrival. The Queen entered, leaning on her husband’s arm, and being also accompanied by the Princess Royal and Prince of Wales. The Queen wore a dress of pink satin, brocaded with gold; Prince Albert a Field-Marshal’s uniform; the Prince of Wales was in a Highland dress, while the Princess was clad in white satin, with a wreath of flowers round her head. A tremendous burst of cheering, renewed and prolonged from all parts of the building, greeted the announcement of the arrival of the Queen.
Her Majesty was conducted to her chair of state by the Commissioners, Cabinet, and Foreign Ministers. As they stood around her chair, in their bright Court dresses and brilliant uniforms, a choir of nearly a thousand voices sang “God save the Queen.” At the conclusion of its last strain, Prince Albert descended from the dais, and taking his place with his brother Commissioners, read a[Pg 171] long address to Her Majesty, in which he recited the history, plan, and intent of the magnificent and magnanimous scheme which was so largely the product of his own heart and brain. These and other less important particulars having been enumerated, the Prince thus concluded:—
It affords us much gratification that, notwithstanding the magnitude of this undertaking, and the great distances from which many of the articles now exhibited have had to be collected, the day on which your Majesty has graciously pleased to be present at the inauguration of the Exhibition is the same day that was originally named for its opening, thus affording a proof of what may, under God’s blessing, be accomplished by good-will and cordial co-operation amongst nations, aided by the means which modern science has placed at our command.
Having thus briefly laid before your Majesty the results of our labours, it now only remains for us to convey to your Majesty our dutiful and loyal acknowledgments of the support and encouragement which we have derived throughout this extensive and laborious task from the gracious favour and countenance of your Majesty. It is our heartfelt prayer that this undertaking, which has for its end the promotion of all branches of human industry, and the strengthening of the bonds of peace and friendship among all the nations of the earth, may, by the blessing of Divine Providence, conduce to the welfare of your Majesty’s people, and be long remembered among the brightest circumstances of your Majesty’s peaceful and happy reign.
The Queen read a short reply, the tenor of which was warmly to re-echo the hopes and sentiments contained in the address of the Prince. The Archbishop of Canterbury then offered up a consecratory prayer, which was followed by the performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” under the direction of Sir Henry Bishop. A very long procession, in which the Queen went hand in hand with her son, and Prince Albert with his daughter, was then marshalled, and having marched round the interior of the building, it was declared formally opened.
THE WAR CLOUD.
Bright Hopes of Peace Dispelled—An Era of War all over the World—The Russian War—The Queen’s Visits to the Wounded Soldiers—Presentation of the War Medals—Crimean Heroes—The Volunteer Movement.
Fair and peaceful to all seeming were the prospects of humanity and the world when the doors of the Hyde Park Exhibition were closed for the last time, and while its materials were being removed to be erected in more than their pristine beauty on the summit of one of the finest heights which environ the sloping basin on which the British metropolis is built. But a cloud, it might be no bigger than a man’s hand, but pregnant with ill, was on the horizon. The Exhibition closed a long era of peace in Europe and the world, an era which had been marred, so far as we were concerned, only by wars in our most distant Oriental dependencies; and, so far as the Continent was concerned, only by the aggressions of the potentates who constituted the Holy Alliance, by the revolutionary movements of 1848, and their sanguinary repression in the year following. Against the hopes of all, and the belief of most, good men and women, the Exhibition inaugurated one of the most martial terms of time which have formed a part of purely modern history. A year had hardly gone by ere Napoleon effected his coup[Pg 173] d’état, that fertile source of future evils—evils which are by no means yet exhausted. Then came the Russian War, which cost us in England a hundred thousand lives and at least a hundred millions of pounds. We had hardly celebrated, and rejoiced over, and illuminated our dwellings and public buildings in celebration of, the Peace of Paris, ere in India we had to put forth the utmost might of our imperial power to vindicate our “Raj” over Moslem and Hindoo, and to avenge the foul deeds done at Cawnpore. When Prince Albert was, in the mystery of providential rule, stricken down in his prime, Italy and Austria were just beginning to recover from the effects of the contests waged between trained troops at the Voltorno and by the Garibaldian guerillas in the Valteline. The first message which was conveyed by the new-laid Atlantic cable was a message of good-will from the grand-daughter of George III. to him who sat in the seat of the rebel Washington. The first experimental cable had hardly been destroyed by the potency of old ocean, churlish and jealous of the invasion of his domain, ere that great contest broke out across the Atlantic, which brought about the abolition of slavery throughout the United States. Hardly had our young Prince brought home his bonny bride ere the subjects who owed her father allegiance were called upon to hold their own against the mighty force wielded by a power, of which the queenly diadem must ere long be worn by England’s dear and best-beloved daughter. The Danish War was hardly concluded ere the aggressor, returning victorious from his northern confines, turned his face to the south, and inflicted a catastrophe quite as telling and decisive upon that ancient dynasty, which has been more [Pg 174]frequently allied with England in the great martial embroglios of the past than any other power of Europe.
We have said that Napoleon’s coup d’état of December, 1852, sounded the tocsin of that period of war which has lasted without sensible intermission from then until now. With that coup d’état Victoria found herself by an accident somewhat closely allied. Some time after the close of the parliamentary session of 1851, all England was startled by the sudden announcement of the resignation by Lord Palmerston of the seals of the Foreign Office, which he held in the first Administration of Lord John Russell. On the meeting of Parliament in 1852, questions were at once addressed to the Treasury Benches in both Houses soliciting explanations of the circumstances. In the Lower House the querist was Sir Benjamin Hawes. Lord John Russell declared his perfect readiness to answer the question which had been put to him by Sir Benjamin Hawes, though he said he could not do so without entering into some details. These “details” were in the main as follows:—He commenced with a full and frank acknowledgment of the energy, the ability, and the extensive knowledge of the interests of England in all parts of the world which preeminently distinguished Lord Palmerston, and said that he the more regretted, on that account, that circumstances had occurred which prevented his acting any longer with him as a colleague. He laid down at starting what he conceived to be the correct doctrine as to the position which a Secretary of State holds as regards the Crown in the administration of foreign affairs. He held that when the Crown, in consequence of a vote of the House of Commons, places its constitutional confidence in a[Pg 175] minister, that minister is, on the other hand, bound to afford the Crown its full liberty—a liberty which the Crown must possess—of saying that the minister no longer possesses its confidence. This was the general doctrine; but it so happened that with regard to Lord Palmerston individually, the precise terms were laid down, in 1850, in a communication on the part of Her Majesty with respect to the transaction of business between the Crown and the Foreign Secretary. Lord John said he had been the organ of that communication, and therefore assumed its responsibility. Its chief passage thus ran:—
The Queen requires, first, that Lord Palmerston will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case, in order that the Queen may know as distinctly to what she is giving her Royal sanction. Secondly, having once given her sanction to a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified by the Minister. Such an act she must consider as failing in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to be visited by the exercise of her constitutional right of dismissing that Minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the Foreign Ministers, before important decisions are taken based upon that intercourse; to receive the foreign despatches in good time, and to have the drafts for her approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off. The Queen thinks it best that Lord John Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston.
Lord John went on to say that, in his view, Lord Palmerston had violated this explicit understanding, at least in two instances—one of a comparatively trifling, but the other of a most important character—since the conclusion of the session of the year previous (1851). The former had reference to some incautious remarks which were said to have fallen from the lips of the[Pg 176] Foreign Secretary on the occasion of receiving a deputation of sympathisers with Hungary. The other related to Napoleon’s coup d’état of the 2nd of December previous. The instructions given to our Ambassador at Paris by the Queen’s Government were to abstain from all interference with the internal affairs of France. Lord John had been informed of an alleged conversation between Lord Palmerston and the French Minister in London, the tenor of which was repugnant to those instructions. He had therefore at once written to him, but his communication had been treated with disdainful silence. Meanwhile Lord Palmerston, without the knowledge of his colleagues, wrote a despatch to Lord Normanby, our Minister at Paris, in which, however, he evaded the question whether he approved the act of the President. He considered altogether that Lord Palmerston had put himself in the place and assumed the prerogative of the Crown; that he had “passed by” the Crown, while he gave the moral approbation of England to the acts of Louis Napoleon, in direct opposition to the policy which the Government had hitherto pursued. Under these circumstances, he had no alternative but to declare that, while he was Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston could not hold the seals of office; for he had “forgotten and neglected what was due to the Crown and his colleagues.”
On the 27th of March, 1854, the following message from the Crown was read to the Peers by the Lord Chancellor. It explains itself. Nor is it necessary for us to re-write here a single line of one of the brightest and freshest pages of the recent history of England. We had long been “drifting into war,” to use Lord Clarendon’s[Pg 177] memorable phrase, and at last the die was irrevocably, though reluctantly, cast.
Her Majesty thinks it proper to acquaint the House that the negotiations in which Her Majesty, in concert with her allies, has for some time past been engaged with His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias, have terminated, and that Her Majesty feels bound to afford active assistance to her ally the Sultan against unprovoked aggression.
Her Majesty has given directions for laying before the House copies of such papers, in addition to those already communicated to Parliament, as will afford the fullest information with regard to the subject of these negotiations. It is a consolation to reflect that no endeavours have been wanting on her part to preserve to her subjects the blessings of peace.
Her Majesty’s just expectations have been disappointed, and Her Majesty relies with confidence on the zeal and devotion of the House of Lords, and the exertions of her brave and loyal subjects to support her in her determination to employ the power and resources of the nation for protecting the dominions of the Sultan against the encroachments of Russia.
Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman had been fought and won, and the horrid winter in the trenches had not yet passed away. These days and nights of constant fighting had left us many fell remembrances of their grievous coming and going. The Eastern hospitals, at Scutari and within the lines of our camp, were choke-full of the wounded. Some few who could bear the pain of transit were brought home, and no one in England was more solicitous of their welfare and wise and kindly tending than England’s Queen. Her visits to the hospitals were as welcome as they were frequent.
On the 8th of March, 1855, the Queen, accompanied by Prince Albert, and by the Duke of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales, and Prince Alfred, visited the military[Pg 178] hospitals at Fort Pitt and Brompton, Chatham. Fort Pitt was then the only general military hospital in England. As this hospital and that of Brompton contained together only 361 patients, it could not be considered that the royal visit was elicited by the peculiar calamities of the place. But the immense extent of the hospitals in the East, and the sufferings of the poor wounded soldiers lying within these vast lazar-houses, had raised in the breast of all England a feeling of pity and horror. In this feeling the Queen most deeply participated. While her visit to the only hospital in this country in which the sufferers by the war were received, was a gratification to her own kindly sympathies, and most cheering and solacing to the inmates, it could not fail to convey to the thousands of sufferers in the East, and to the kinsmen and kinswomen whose hearts bled for them at home, that no heart was fuller of pity than that of her under whose flag they had fought and fallen.
The whole of the wounded who were in a condition to leave their beds were drawn up in chairs on the lawn, each having written upon it a card containing the name and services of the occupant, the nature of his wounds, and where they were received. The Queen passed along the line, saying a few kind words to those sufferers who particularly attracted her notice, or to those whose services were specially commended. She visited every ward, except that containing fever cases. A few days after, the Queen reviewed some cavalry and artillery at Woolwich. After the review, she visited the hospital, and saw the wounded artillery-men who had returned from the Crimea. Nor were these isolated exhibitions of sentiment or emotion.[Pg 179] Upon every occasion during the continuance of the war, the Queen showed the most heartfelt sympathy with her brave soldiers; visited their hospitals and transport ships; received the wounded at her palace, and suggested and liberally assisted in the establishment of permanent means of relief for them and their families. A beautiful letter of the Queen, which was accidentally made public about this time, showed that in the privacy of domestic life Her Majesty never forgot these sufferers. Indeed, she complained that she was not kept sufficiently informed of the needs of those who had returned wounded to their country.
It was equally the Queen’s duty and pleasure to reward conspicuous merit, as it was to do all that lay within the limits of her human and regal power to soothe the pangs of woe. One scene in which she discharged this high queenly function will never be forgotten by those who were privileged to witness it. The Queen determined to present with her own hand, to the officers of the Crimean army, and to a portion of the non-commissioned officers and privates, who had returned to their country disabled by their wounds, the medals which they had so dearly won. This act of grace and kindness deeply touched a sentiment that rested deep in the bosom of the nation, that had, indeed, there rested ever since—nay, long before—Elizabeth thrilled the heroic hearts of her people at Tilbury by saying, “I myself will be your general and judge, and the rewarder of every one of your victories in the field.”
The presentation took place on the 18th of May, 1855. A royal dais was erected in the centre of the parade of the Horse Guards, and the public offices which[Pg 180] surround it were filled up with galleries for the royal family and nobility. Within an area enclosed by barriers, were the intended recipients of the decorations. Without was a dense mass of spectators. When the Queen had reached the ground, the Guards, who had hitherto been in line, were formed four deep, and through the intervals thus opened the Crimean heroes passed, and in a few moments the Queen stood face to face with them. Each then passed singly, receiving his medal at the hands of Her Majesty, who presented them with a grace and kindness which brought tears to many an eye long unused to their effusion. The first to receive his medal was the Duke of Cambridge, who was enthusiastically received. Then followed other General officers, then the staff, and then in order, without distinction of regimental rank, came cavalry, artillery, engineers, and the line.
The sight was one of the most thrilling ever seen in our metropolis, or in our times. The gaunt and pallid forms, scarred features, and maimed and mutilated limbs, brought home to the heart of the least sympathetic the ravages of war, and the cost and guerdon of bravery. Many of those who hobbled upon crutches, or walked painfully with the assistance of a stick, wore upon their arms the emblems of mourning for some brother or near relative, now reposing by the waters of the Euxine or the Bosphorus. To each one of the wounded, whether officer or private, the Queen said some kind word or asked some kindly question of him. Many of the poor fellows were quite overcome by the tenderness of her compassion. Those officers whose wounds rendered them unable to walk, were wheeled past in Bath chairs. Sir[Pg 181] Thomas Troubridge, who lost both feet at Inkerman, and who has since died, was the first of these. The Queen, leaning over his chair, handed him his medal with the most gracious gesture, and conferred upon him the post of aide-de-camp to herself. Captains Sayer and Currie, who were also wheeled past, received similar sympathy.
After the soldiers, came 450 sailors and marines, under Admiral Dundas, who was the first to be decorated. The ceremony over, the non-commissioned officers and men of all services dined in the riding-school, where they were visited by the Queen, her husband, and their children.
Closely and intimately allied with the intense warlike feeling which prevailed throughout the period which we have been traversing, was the rise, or rather the revival from our grandfathers’ times, of the Volunteer movement, in the winter of 1858-9. This very notable phenomenon of modern days was entirely of spontaneous origin and popular outgrowth. At first the authorities looked but coldly upon it—wisely so, we think—until it evinced inherent elements of vitality and reality of purpose, and until it appeared that it was something more than a mere passing impulse. It was not until the 15th of May, 1859, that a circular from the Secretary for War gave to the movement official sanction, in the form of an authoritative permission by the Queen for the formation of volunteer corps. Ere a twelvemonth had elapsed, 70,000 men had enrolled themselves in England and Scotland; and before the end of the summer of 1860, that number had swollen into 170,000. In many other and more emphatic modes the Queen graciously accorded her own personal sanction and her warm and approving recognition to the [Pg 182]movement. At a special levée, held in March, 1859, all volunteer officers had the opportunity of being presented. At the first meeting at Wimbledon of the National Rifle Association, in July, 1860, Her Majesty founded an annual prize, in value £250. At the same meeting she fired the first shot, discharging a rifle, which had been carefully adjusted to a target 400 yards distant. The cheers of the assembled thousands welcomed the impact of the bullet within a quarter of an inch of the bull’s eye, and one of many Swiss gentlemen, who were present as competitors, felicitously remarked that Queen Victoria was now la première carabinière de l’Angleterre.
The 23rd of June in this year was a still greater day for the volunteer army, and for the country, for it proved how earnestly the riflemen had devoted themselves to training and to discipline. Her Majesty having expressed her desire to review the young force on that day, arrangements were made by the War Office, whereby every corps that had attained a certain excellence might be represented by its efficient members. The numbers and strength of the corps that presented themselves for inspection caused great surprise. Not only London and Westminster, and the densely populated metropolitan counties, sent ample contingents, but the energies of the railway companies were taxed to the utmost to bring up bodies of men from the west of England, the Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and East Anglia—even from distant Northumbria. The authorities ultimately found that they would have to make arrangements for placing 20,000 men in review order. The review became a national spectacle, a general holiday was arranged, and an immense assemblage, provincial as well as [Pg 183]metropolitan, was assembled in Hyde Park. The Queen’s stand was placed in the centre of a long line of galleries erected for the accommodation of about 17,000 privileged spectators, its situation being indicated by the Royal Standard planted before it. At different hours of the morning, the provincial corps, some of which must have travelled all night, were landed at the railway termini—the Durham Artillery, which had travelled farthest, being the first to reach King’s Cross. The river steam-boats landed their freights at convenient piers: the suburban bodies mustered at their appointed stations. The whole operation of marching the respective battalions and brigades, amalgamated as agreed on, was performed with unerring precision and perfect ease, thanks to the intelligent zeal of the men and the clear heads of their officers. By two o’clock, 21,000, formed in one long line, extended completely across the park. The space of time which intervened between the successive arrivals of the corps and the commencement of the review, offered one of the most picturesque spectacles witnessed in our days.
Exactly at four o’clock the Queen arrived on the ground in an open carriage. Accompanying her were the King of the Belgians, the Princess Alice, and Prince Arthur. The Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales were on horseback. The Queen was attended by a magnificent following of general officers, aides-de-camp, staff officers, foreign military men of distinction, and the Lords-Lieutenant of the counties which furnished contingents to the force on the ground. There were also in attendance on the Sovereign the Duke of Cambridge and Mr. Sidney Herbert, the official heads of the army.[Pg 184] Remarkable amongst the group was Field-Marshal Lord Combermere, who had counted no fewer than seventy years of military duty. As the cortège swept on to the ground the volunteers stood to arms, their bands playing the National Anthem. The scene now presented was in truth a magnificent one. On one side, from north to south, stood the thick lines of the volunteers, their somewhat sombre ranks varied by masses of dark uniforms, with here and there a mass of scarlet, the whole thrown into relief by the background of the trees of Kensington Gardens. From west to east, dense lines of people extended, many being raised head over head by the most precarious and illusory elevations. From north to south, at the eastern end of the park, and facing the line of volunteers, a glittering line of military uniforms of officers and the gay dresses of ladies who accompanied them gave a varied and rich fringe to the human masses of the élite of the land who occupied the galleries above them. The green space so enclosed was dotted and animated by the bright scarlet, glittering cuirasses, snowy plumes, and jet-black steeds of the Life Guardsmen, who kept the ground.
The Queen, followed by the whole of her brilliant Court, drove to the extreme left of the volunteer line, and thence slowly passed along the whole front to where the extreme right came close up to the lofty houses at Albert Gate. Then turning, she drew up on the open ground, the Royal Standard proudly waving above her. The bands of the Household Brigade being placed opposite her, the volunteers now began to defile past, between Her Majesty and the bands. The march was commenced by the mounted corps, few in number, but admirably equipped and with remarkably fine horses. The infantry[Pg 185] were headed by the Artillery Company, to whom, as the oldest volunteer body existing, not only in England but in Europe, the priority has always been accorded. For an hour and a half corps after corps marched past, until the long succession was closed by a regiment from Cheshire. When the whole had passed, and all had returned to their original positions, the whole line advanced in columns of battalions, and, by signal, cheered Her Majesty with vociferous earnestness. After expressing her high satisfaction with what she had seen, the Queen left the ground about six o’clock. Before eight o’clock all the volunteers had been marched out of the park, and there remained within its gates only meagre remnants of the enormous crowd of spectators.
The opinions of competent authorities on the creditable manner in which this experimental review passed off were of the highest character. The Commander-in-Chief issued a general order, by command of the Queen, in which His Royal Highness spoke in the highest terms of the efficiency displayed by the various corps, and of Her Majesty’s appreciation of the loyalty and devotion exhibited by the volunteer movement. Later in the season the Queen, when on her customary autumnal route to Balmoral, reviewed in the Queen’s Park, at Edinburgh, the volunteers of her northern kingdom, to the number of 12,000.
THE QUEEN IN HER HIGHLAND HOME.
The Queen as an Author—“The Early Years of the Prince Consort”—“Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands”—Love for Children of all Ranks—Mountain Ascents on Pony-back—In Fingal’s Cave—“The Queen’s Luck”—Salmon-spearing, and a Catastrophe attending it—Erection of a Memorial Cairn—Freedom of Intercourse with Humble Highlanders—Visits to Cottagers—“Mrs. Albert”—Travelling Incognito—Highland Dinners—“A Wedding-Party frae Aberdeen”—A Disguise Detected.
Early in January of the year 1868, Queen Victoria added her name to the distinguished roll of Royal authors. In the year preceding, there had been published a work entitled, “The Early Years of the Prince Consort,” in which the life of her revered and lamented husband is traced from its beginning, down to the first period of their common wedded life. On the title-page of this work appears the name, as author, of General the Honourable Charles Grey, a gentleman who accompanied the Prince in a tour to Italy before his marriage, and who has ever since remained attached, in high capacities, to the Royal Household. This book, to which we have been indebted for important materials reproduced by us at certain of the earlier stages of our narrative, was published with the sanction of Her Majesty, and its compiler received from his Royal Mistress most, if not all, of[Pg 187] the materials which he very tastefully combined. But the Queen did not appear in it as author in propriâ personâ, save in the instance of certain occasional notes and addenda to which her imprint is attached. The work published in 1868, on the other hand, “Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands,” is entirely, save a brief editorial introduction, from the Queen’s pen. It is precisely, as its name imports, a series of extracts from a journal kept from day to day, and extended from Her Majesty’s earliest married days far into those of her widowhood. Special passages are, in addition, given from similar diaries, which recorded yacht trips to the beautiful estuary of the Tamar, to the Duchy of Cornwall, and to the Channel Islands. There is also furnished a very sparkling and vivacious record of the Queen’s first visit to Ireland, in 1849, which will be found duly recorded by us in a previous chapter.
Nothing charms more in these pages than the love displayed for all young people—for the writer’s own sons and daughters, who are described by their home pet names; “Vicky,” and “Bertie,” standing, for example, for Victoria and Albert—for the infant child of a ducal entertainer, depicted as “a dear, white, fat, fair little fellow,” and “such a merry, independent little child”—or for the children of humble cottagers at Balmoral, for “Mary Symons and Lizzie Stuart dancing so nicely; the latter with her hair all hanging down.” When the Queen and Prince and the children land at Dundee, what charms the fond young mother most is, that “Vicky” behaves like a grown-up person, and is “not put out, nor frightened, nor nervous.” And when a little grandchild of Lord Camperdown presented the youthful Princess Royal with a[Pg 188] nosegay, the reflection that rose to the mother’s mind was, that she could hardly believe that she was travelling as a wife and a mother; for it seemed but as yesterday that she, as a child, in the tours taken with her mother through England, used to receive similar childish tokens. She was at once put in mind of the time when she had been “the little Princess.”
Accounts of rides on shaggy Highland ponies to the tops of mountains, and more lengthened incognito excursions in whatever vehicles could be procured at third-rate country inns, are thickly scattered over the pages of the “Journal.”
The Western Islands, as well as the Highlands, were at least on one occasion visited. Anchoring close by wondrous Staffa, the Queen disembarked, and was rowed in a barge into Fingal’s Cave. This was the first time that the British standard, with a Queen of Great Britain and her husband and children, had ever entered the portals of this wondrous freak of nature, and the Gaelic oarsmen gave three cheers, the echoes of which from the inmost recesses of the cave were most impressive.
On another mountain ramble, the Queen seated herself calmly, the youthful Prince of Wales lying among the heather by her side, while Prince Albert went to stalk a deer. He brought down a “royal,” that is, a stag which has over a certain number of “tines” to his horns; on which the somewhat superstitious Highland keeper at once said that “it was Her Majesty’s coming out that had brought the good luck.” The Highlanders all believed that the Queen had “a lucky foot.”
Amongst other Highland sports which curiosity and great love of adventure led her to witness, was salmon[Pg 189] spearing, or “leistering.” While the keepers were beating the waters, the Highland gentlemen wading in the stream, and Prince Albert watching, spear in hand, on a boulder, the Queen watched from the brink this, the most exciting of all river sports, save, perhaps, otter hunting. Suddenly she was alarmed, and with most abundant cause. Two of the men imprudently went into a very deep pool. One of them could not swim, and he sank to the bottom. There was a cry for help, and a general rush by the Prince and others to the spot. The Queen was much frightened, and grasped the arm of the minister in attendance, Lord Carlisle, in great agony. But Dr. Robertson, the Queen’s “factor,” or agent over the Balmoral estate, swam in and got the too venturesome Gael out safely. The Queen, after this “horrid moment,” had the satisfaction of seeing eight salmon speared or netted; and was further amused by a curious piece of Highland courtesy—her own “men” carrying all the “men” of Colonel Forbes, a neighbour, dry shod on their backs through the water. They had come to see the sport, and the Queen’s gillies at once insisted on their conveying them to the most favourable side of the stream.
A great day was that on which a cairn was erected on one of the heights overlooking Balmoral to celebrate the building of the new castle, which the Queen raised in lieu of the mansion which had stood on the estate when she was its tenant, and ere by its purchase she entered into proprietary possession. The morning was a fine one, and at eleven o’clock the Royal party started for the ascent of Craig Cowan, where already nearly all the dependants were assembled. The Royal children, and all the ladies and gentlemen, accompanied the Queen and Prince. All[Pg 190] the children of the Queen’s neighbouring tenants, and of her servants, were already on the top. The Queen laid the first stone, and the Prince the second, and then their children according to their ages. Then all the ladies and gentlemen of the Court placed a stone each. The pipers played the while, and whisky was served out to every one. It took an hour to build the cairn, and dancing and merry revels went on without intermission until its completion; the very oldest of the women danced, and the youngsters were wild with glee. An old favourite dog sat reflectively contemplating a scene to which his veteran gravity prevented his indulging in any responsive and sympathetic gambols. At last when the cairn, having attained to the respectable height of some eight feet, was pronounced all but complete, the Prince climbed to its summit and placed the last stone, and three hearty cheers announced to the dwellers below the completion of the enterprise and edifice. The Queen concludes her chronicle of its erection in these words:—“It was a gay, pretty, and touching sight, and I felt almost inclined to cry. The view was so beautiful over the dear hills, the day so fine, the whole so gemüthlich. May God bless this place, and allow us yet to see it and enjoy it many a long year!”
The Queen and her family have always made it a practice to enter into the freest and most unrestrained conversation with the dignified, independent, courteous, and truly well-bred Highlanders. As she rode along a hill-side one day, “Alice and Bertie” accompanying her on foot, Prince Albert was conversing very gaily with one of the gillies, upon which the one who led the Queen’s pony observed, “It’s very pleasant to walk with[Pg 191] a person who is always content.” And when the Queen, following up her attendant’s remark, said that he was never cross after bad sport, the gillie rejoined, “Every one on the estate says there never was so kind a master; our only wish is to give satisfaction.” The Queen replied that that wish they certainly succeeded in fulfilling. And at a future date the Queen thus annotated that passage in her journal from which we have been borrowing:—“We were always in the habit of conversing with the Highlanders, with whom we came so much in contact in the Highlands. The Prince highly appreciated the good breeding, simplicity, and intelligence which makes it so pleasant, and even instructive, to talk to them.”
The Queen takes especial pleasure in visiting the old women’s cottages, by some of whom, we have been told, she is not unfrequently addressed—or at least was so, when she was yet new to the north and the northerners new to her—as “Mrs. Albert.” One old dame of eighty-six, erect and dignified as she sat at her spinning-wheel, received personally from Her Majesty the gift of a warm flannel petticoat. This was her pious and eloquent form of thanks: “May the Lord ever attend you and yours, here and hereafter, and may the Lord be a guide to ye, and keep ye from all harm!” Another aged pensioner, who was quite friendly, and shook hands with all her party of visitors, chose this form of benediction: “May the Lord attend you with mirth and with joy; may He ever be with you in this world, and when ye leave it!”
The Queen’s mode of travelling as an incognita has never gone beyond a journey of three or four days’ duration to some Highland district, in which the very amplitude of her retinue, even when abridged of its[Pg 192] usual proportions, prevented her passing otherwise than as a person of distinction, but in which it was possible to keep her queenly rank undiscovered. Sometimes the mask was successfully worn to the end of the trip, to the great enjoyment of the Queen, her “gentle” attendants, and her servants. On one or two occasions, recognitions, unfortunate for the success of the very innocent plot, were made by persons to whom the Queen’s face was familiar. On one of these trips, two shabby vehicles contained the whole party, which consisted of the Royal pair, Sir George Grey, Lady Churchill, and a small complement of servants. It had been arranged that the tourists should pass as Lord and Lady Churchill (the Queen and Prince assuming these rôles), Lady Churchill becoming Miss Spencer, and Sir George Grey becoming “Dr.” Grey. Once or twice the servants, who were of necessity in the plot, forgot their instructions, and blurted out “your Majesty,” and “your Royal Highness;” but, luckily, no one heard the faux pas. After a very long and fatiguing drive through a district remarkably denuded of habitations, they arrived, at nightfall, at an inn of very small pretensions. They alighted, Sir George Grey and Lady Churchill, faithful to the necessities of the situation, giving no indication, by any deference of manner, of the quality of their fellow-travellers. Being ushered into small but tidy sleeping and dressing apartments, they had their travel-stains removed, and sat down to such a dinner as the resources of the establishment afforded. The two gillies in attendance were to have waited at table, but their bashfulness prevented their undertaking duties so entirely out of their line; so a damsel in ringlets, attached to the inn,[Pg 193] performed the necessary duties. The repast consisted of a very delicate and delicious Scottish soup, known as “hodge-podge”—which, to be tasted to perfection, however, must be partaken of in early summer, when vegetables (of many kinds of which it is composed) are young and tender—mutton broth, fowls, “good” roast lamb, and “very good” potatoes. A bottle of wine the travellers had taken care to bring with them. They were less fortunate on the occasion of another similar trip, when all that could be procured was a couple of remarkably small and lean fowls, the remnants of which were sent down to the servants, with appetites rendered voracious by the keen mountain air. On this latter trip, a commercial traveller was much annoyed at his exclusion from the “commercial room,” which was reserved for the servants. In answer to his remonstrance, the landlady pacified him by stating that the guests, who occupied her whole house, were “a wedding-party frae Aberdeen.”
When the cavalcade of the two “shabby vehicles” drove away, on the next morning, it was evident that “the murder was out,” and that the inmates of the inn had discovered the quality of their guests, and communicated it to the scanty population of the village; for “all the people were in the street, and the landlady waved a pocket-handkerchief, and the ringletted maid a flag, from the window.”
THE WIDOWED QUEEN.
Unbroken Happiness of the Queen’s Life up to 1861—Death of the Duchess of Kent—The Prince Consort slightly Ailing—Catches Cold at Cambridge and Eton—The Malady becomes Serious—Public Alarm—Rapid Sinking, and Death—Sorrow of the People—The Queen’s Fortitude—Avoidance of Court Display—Good Deeds—Sympathy with all Benevolent Actions—Letter of Condolence to the Widow of President Lincoln—The Albert Medal—Conclusion.
Until 1861 the Queen had never known bereavement in the circle of her own immediate family. Nine children had been born to her, and, although it is understood that certain of her younger offspring do not possess that robustness of health which their elder brothers and sisters enjoy, yet not one had been snatched from their loving parents by the hand of the Great Destroyer. Early in 1861 came the first pang of bereavement. The Duchess of Kent, ripe in years, one of the best of mothers and one of the best of grandmothers, a lady to whose memory all Britons now and hereafter owe an incalculable debt of gratitude, passed peacefully away with her descendants gathered around her bedside.
When the Royal Family returned from Balmoral in October, it was observed that the Prince Consort was not in his usual health and vigour, but he had no pronounced ailment, and nothing approaching to serious alarm was for many weeks apprehended. In the course of[Pg 195] the succeeding month he went to Cambridge, to visit the Prince of Wales, who was a student at that University, as he had previously been for a short time at Oxford. He went out shooting while there, got wet, and, as the Duke of Kent had done, was so imprudent as to sit down without removing his wet clothes. Nevertheless, on his return to Windsor, he pursued his usual daily avocations. About the beginning of December he appeared in public with the Queen, and reviewed the volunteer corps raised among the Eton boys. The rain fell fast, and the Prince was seized on the review ground with acute pains in the back. Feverish symptoms supervened, and the doctors ordered confinement to his room. Still no alarm was entertained, and it was believed that he suffered only from a passing malady. The general public knew nothing of the ailment until some solicitude was caused by a bulletin, which appeared in the Court Circular of the 8th December:—
His Royal Highness the Prince Consort has been confined to his apartments for the past week, suffering from a feverish cold, with pains in his limbs. Within the last few days the feverish symptoms have rather increased, and are likely to continue for some time longer, but there are no unfavourable symptoms. The party which had been invited by Her Majesty’s command to assemble at Windsor Castle on Monday has been countermanded.
Not until the 13th was any bulletin issued which caused real anxiety and alarm. On the day following, the morning papers contained the ominous announcement that he had “passed a restless night, and the symptoms had assumed an unfavourable character during the day.” The Times, in a leading article, while hoping for the best, startled all by its statement that “the fever which has attacked him[Pg 196] is a weakening and wearying malady.” On the morning of Saturday there was a favourable turn, but which was soon followed by a most serious relapse. About four p.m. the fever assumed a malignant typhoid type, and he began to sink with such rapidity that all stimulants failed to check the quick access of weakness. At nine o’clock a telegram was received in the City that the Prince was dying fast, and at a few minutes before eleven all was over. “On Saturday night last,” said one of the daily journals of the succeeding Monday, “at an hour when the shops in the metropolis had hardly closed, when the theatres were delighting thousands of pleasure-seekers, when the markets were thronged with humble buyers seeking to provide for their Sunday requirements, when the foot-passengers yet lingered in the half-emptied streets, allured by the soft air of a calm, clear evening, a family in which the whole interest of this great nation is centred were assembled, less than five-and-twenty miles away, in the Royal residence at Windsor, in the deepest affliction around the death-bed of a beloved husband and father. In the prime of life, without—so to speak—a longer warning than that of forty-eight hours, Prince Albert, the Consort of our Queen, the parent of our future Monarchs, has been stricken down by a short but malignant disorder.” Shortly after midnight, the great bell of St. Paul’s, which is never tolled except upon the death of a member of the Royal Family, boomed the fatal tidings over a district extending, in the quietude of the early Sabbath morn, for miles around the metropolis.
The Queen, the Princess Alice, and the Prince of Wales, who had been hastily summoned from Cambridge, sat with the dying good man until the last. After the[Pg 197] closing scene the Queen supported herself nobly, and after a short burst of uncontrollable grief, she is said to have gathered her children around her, and addressed them in the most solemn and affectionate terms. “She declared to her family that, though she felt crushed by the loss of one who had been her companion through life, she knew how much was expected of her, and she accordingly called on her children to give her their assistance, in order that she might do her duty to them and the country.” The Duke of Cambridge and many gentlemen connected with the Court, with six of the Royal children, were present at the Prince’s death. In answer to some one of those present who tenderly offered condolence, the Queen is reported to have said: “I suppose I must not fret too much, for many poor women have to go through the same trial.”
The sad news became generally known in the metropolis and in the great cities of the empire early on Sunday. Unusually large congregations filled the churches and chapels at morning service. “There was a solemn eloquence in the subdued but distinctly perceptible sensation which crept over the congregations in the principal churches when, in the prayer for the Royal family, the Prince Consort’s name was omitted. It was well remarked, if ever the phrase was permissible, it might then be truly said that the name of the departed Prince was truly conspicuous by its absence, for never was the gap that this event has made in our national life, as well as in the domestic happiness of the Palace, more vividly realised than when the name that has mingled so familiarly in our prayers for the last twenty years was, for the first time, left out of our public devotions.” Many[Pg 198] thousands of mute pious petitions were specially addressed to Heaven for the bereaved widow and orphans when the prayer of the Litany for “all who are desolate and oppressed” was uttered, and in the chapels of Nonconformists the extemporaneous prayers of the ministers gave articulate expression to the heartfelt orisons of the silent worshippers. Every one thought of and felt for the Queen, and during the week intervening between the death and the funeral, the question on every one’s lips in all places of resort, and where men and women congregated, was, “How will the Queen bear it?”
Prince Albert sleeps the long sleep at Frogmore, to which his mortal remains were borne reverently, and without ostentation, as he himself would have wished. The inscription on his coffin ran thus:—
Illustrissimi et Celsissimi Alberti,
de saxe-coburg et gotha principis,
nobilissimi ordinis periscelidis equitis,
augustissimæ et potentissimæ victoriæ reginæ,
obiit die decimo quarto decembris, mdccclxi.
anno ætatis suæ xliii.
[Here lies the most illustrious and exalted Albert, Prince Consort, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the most beloved husband of the most august and potent Queen Victoria. He died on the fourteenth day of December, 1861, in the forty-third year of his age.]
Thus died and was buried a great and a good man, one of the most useful men of his age, one to whom England owes much.
“For that he loved our Queen,
And, for her sake, the people of her love,
Few and far distant names shall rank above
His own, where England’s cherish’d names are seen.”
The Queen has ever since her great bereavement most constantly and piously revered the Prince’s memory. Her reverence has taken the practical form of the deepest sympathy with the woes and sorrows of the poorest and humblest of her subjects. She has eschewed the pomp and ceremony of State, and deliberately set herself to discover and soothe sorrow, and to recognise all good deeds of the same character performed by others. When the noble Peabody bestowed his princely act of munificence on the poor of London, no recognition was made of his generosity more signal than that made by the Queen. She has been among the first to help by loving words and by practical aid the sufferers by any great national calamity—a Lancashire famine, a shipwreck or railway accident, a colliery explosion, a catastrophe caused by mad and futile sedition. Ready and sympathetic condolence has especially flowed from her to those bereaved like herself, and when President Lincoln perished at his post, the Queen sent to his widow a long letter which her son described as “the outgushing of a woman’s heartfelt sympathy,” and which, with rare and commendable good taste, has never been exposed to the public eye. Most fitly has she specially commemorated her husband’s memory by the institution of a fit companion and complement to the Victoria Cross, the “Albert Medal,” which is bestowed on brave men who save lives from the “Peril of the Sea or Shipwreck.”
Many consolations have been vouchsafed by Heaven[Pg 200] to the widowed Queen. Since she lost her great stay and support her realm has for the most part been prosperous and contented. Though environed by many troubles, and though the clang of battle has shaken the world, the dove of peace has benignantly hovered o’er Britain. Much advance has been made in those fields of social, moral, political, and educational improvement which were so dear to Albert’s heart, as they have always been to her own. And shortly before the period when these pages are first given to the public, the political progress of the nation has received a great stimulus, such as is given in a people’s history only at rare and long intervals. Her children grow up from youth to maturity, and from maturity to maternity and paternity, without a slur upon their fair names, and are, with those to whom the elder of them have united themselves in wedlock, all that a proud mother’s heart could wish. God has stricken her; but He has proved also an Infinite Healer and Solacer. Ours be it to add to the ordinary motives of patriotism, those more tender and touching influences which arise from the recollection that our Queen is now, as said that Queen of England whose subjects were Shakespeare and Bacon, Spenser and Sidney—“Married to her People.”
CASSELL, PETTER, AND GALPIN, BELLE SAUVAGE WORKS, LONDON, E.C.
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